We spent last Sunday through this Friday at the Morgan Bay Zendo in Surry, Maine. Getting there was another instance of pure road magic. While at a public library in Augusta, I picked up a Maine Organic Farmer's Association newsletter and saw a mention of the Zendo. I found their website and learned they were having an upcoming Mediation and Gardening retreat, for which scholarships could be available. Feeling like we needed a bit of time to relax, I immediately emailed the contact for the retreat, Nancy. After several emails, it was decided Dave and I could spend the week in exchange for a few hours of work each day.
In the end, there were not enough people signed up, so the Gardening and Mediation retreat itself did not take place, but the week took on its own shape and was turned into just the retreat we needed.
To access the Zendo's grounds, you park in a gravel lot and walk down a 5-minute magical forest path.
The path was lined with lots of moss. It was especially concentrated in the Moss Garden, which branches off the main path.
The moss coupled with the stillness of the forest lent to its ethereal quality.
The smaller cabin on the left was our home for the week. It was cozy and felt like the perfect fit. It was lovely to sleep with the screen door and windows open and listen to the frogs and watch the lightening bugs illuminate the inky black sky.
On our first night in the cabin, we were awoken by an incredibly loud animal sound. We thought at first it could be a screech owl. It was prolonged and other-worldly sounding. All day we wondered what it could be. The second night, we heard the sound again. It was clearly being made by the same animal, though the call was slightly different. We got another clue when we heard the loud crunching sound of something moving across the ground and knocking one rock against another. We knew then we were not dealing with a screech owl; our mysterious night visitor was something much bigger. Eagerly the next morning, we looked up sound clips of moose calls, and were delighted to find that our creature was indeed a moose. A large bull moose. A dirt road ran behind our cabin, and we assumed the moose used that road as part of his evening stroll. He literally was right beside our window when he bellowed at us. We speculated he could smell us, and was sending out an alarm call, or perhaps he was just a talkative moose. Each consecutive night, we set up our voice recorder, hoping to catch our moose friend on tape. He never bellowed in the night again, and we'll never be sure whether he continued to walk by us, silently, in the night. We certainly feel overjoyed at being so close to such a majestic animal and being treated to hearing his calls.
This was the common area at the Zendo, containing the kitchen, meeting hall, and bathrooms. It was wonderful having our own kitchen for a week. I loved being able to cook, and we enjoyed snacking on things like hummus and cheese, foods we can't have on the road with our lack of refrigeration.
There was one other resident for the week: Peter. He had come to spend a week meditating, reading, and working on his poetry. A more perfect match-up never could have been planned. We got along famously with Peter, and enjoyed having dinner together each night in the meeting hall. Some evenings, we just chatted, but other nights after dinner, we pulled out our laptops and notebooks and held impromptu readings of our work and writing workshops. One night, Nancy joined us, and we workshopped part of a book she wanted to publish. It was so refreshing to be in a writing workshop again. They were certainly one of my favorite parts about college, and it was just perfect that Peter was at the Zendo during the same time as us. None of us minded that the Meditation and Gardening retreat was no longer happening; we turned the week into our own personalized writing retreat.
Every morning, we met in the Zendo to meditate from 7:00 to 8:00, except for Sunday morning, when we meditated from 9:00 to 11:00.
As one of our work projects, Dave and I cleaned the windows and scrubbed down this foyer area where shoes are removed before entering the Zendo. Before, we had thought the wood was plywood because of its dusty, light color. After washing it down, though, we discovered it was actually beautiful cedar wood.
Inside, Dave and I pulled up all the tatami mats (the straw colored mats underneath the cushions) and vacuumed there, as well as the cushions and the tops of the mats. We also mopped the floor.
While we weren't working or meditating, we had time to work on a lot of little side projects we hadn't had time for on the road. Dave spent a lot of time with sewing, and one of his accomplishments was this "Know What you Eat" patch on my jean jacket.
One of the downfalls of this area was all the bugs. I apologized to Dave for making fun of his bug hat purchase; never have I been so grateful for something!
Dave's initial project was to work on clearing the cattails out of the property's pond, which was rapidly growing in.
Dave worked for three days on the cattails. They develop complex root systems, and thus were difficult to wrangle out.
On day three, after Dave emerged from the muck with these buckshot looking bug bites on his front and back, we decided the pond was too much and requested different tasks. However, he did manage to make some progress, and helped the Zendo determine they need a professional dredging for the pond to survive.
The upside to the pond was all the frog friends we made.
I am tickled pink by the sound of bullfrogs.
Before our mid-week evening meditation, we were treated to this flock of turkeys crossing in front of the Zendo.
We had such a fantastic week, and feel refreshed after such a relaxing time. Thank you, Nancy, for having us, thank you Peter for sharing the week with us, and thank both of you for sharing your writing with us! It was a time we won't soon forget.
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