It was too hot Monday for most people to be drinking coffee, but our guys meet at Maizee’s Cafe every weekday, come rain or shine, or hotter than blue blazes. Maizee’s coffee was always fresh, not reheated like some places do. We straggled in, Denny back from his week of fishing up in the high lakes; all of us ready to solve all the problems that other people cause.
As usual, between sips, we covered yesterday’s big league baseball games, cussed the politicians some, and let Denny lie enough about the size of his fish. Maizee had warm fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, and her regular doughnuts. We ordered a few more of each, and someone told Wilbur to go on about the Retreat he and Judy went to in the Sequoias.
Wilbur wiped some of the frosting off his shirt before he began.
“Denny, you weren’t here yesterday, but my wife Judy had dragged me over to this retreat for Mid-life Change about forty years ago. I was in trouble early the first day. We were in this lodge and thirty of us sharing with each other. This mystic leader, Ophelia, wanted us to tell the group who we were and why we’re there. I had gained two enemies earlier, her and Judy, by speaking without understanding the rules enough to protect myself.”
“Well, now they droned around the circle about hopes and dreams, like they were expecting Ophelia to show us the way in one weekend. There were even some sensible looking guys there. One was both a doctor and lawyer and only about thirty years old. These guys talked like they were there on purpose, not just there to keep peace with their wives. Most of the women were on the same wave-length with Judy, that’s my wife, and they appeared to be reacting to study/discussion groups in their own neighborhoods.”
:Well, we went around the circle, and each person went on about their work in some church or synagogue, their study background in spirituality, or volunteerism in community. I sank lower and lower in my seat and wished I was back in the office.”
“Remember that jerk, George, and his wife Kitty, who rode down with us? They were the last ones to speak up and they were sitting right next to Ophelia. Well, it got to George’s turn. He sat there and went on and on about his desire to end wars and feed the hungry, and maybe take a sabbatical to go over to Africa to help develop clean water sources. He offered a shy smile to Ophelia, who led the cheers for him. Kitty stared at him like she had just met him. Then, the so and so winked at me.”
“That turned out to end session number one as we got permission to take a break; no coffee, just warm fruit juice. After about fifteen minutes of mingling with no one anxious to mingle with me, especially Judy. We went back into the lodge. I tried to lead Judy to a new seat, but she said we had to stay in the same place so Ophelia would know our names and faces. That was the last thing I wanted.”
“In the middle of the room there was something on a stool covered by a black sheet. Ophelia’s husband Warren got to finally say something, ‘She wants you to form four lines across from each other like four walls.’ We shuffled chairs. At her signal, Warren tossed up that sheet like Merlin the Magician, and Ophelia beamed at him. You guys might have seen what they called a Perception Box, with a collage of pictures pasted on each of the four sides of the box. Each side showing something different; a happy scene, a scene of devastation, tornado scenes—you know..”
“Ophelia’s instructions began, ‘You will each be gazing upon the scene depicted by your side of the box, as I lead you in a guided meditation. Breath deeply, feel what you are seeing, enter with your entire being that sense of belonging there.’”
“And she began as Warren popped in a tape of eerie flute music. She led us down a path that she said might be strewn with rose petals or bomb fragments or children playing in a park, or the blood of war, depending on the pictures on the box. We might imagine sounds that would be coming from our scene, children screaming with joy or with terror. She led us on and on with her quiet voice, and I’m damned if it didn’t happen to me. I was sitting there staring at scenes of war and hurricanes, and kids with sunken bellies and rib bones out to here. I was there! I felt tears on my cheeks, hoping no one noticed.”
“About then, I looked across the room, and there’s old George. He’s got a big smile on his face like he just won the lottery. All of a sudden I hated him! I might let Kitty ride home with us, but George was gonna, by god walk!”
“She finally stopped meditating, Warren stopped the squawking flute. People shifted in their chairs and whispered. I developed a bad cough so I could grab a handkerchief to my nose, and eyes.”
“Ophelia looked around the room and said, ‘Who want to express their feelings first?’”
“My dry cough got worse. A number of hands went up to volunteer, and with careful timing, my cough began to ease off when someone else kicked it off with a few remarks about the intensity of feeling developed in them. A woman on my side of the box said it emphasized the need for the outreach program their study group was developing. I nodded my approval at her comments.”
“She caught me; Ophelia, that is. ‘Wilbur, would you give us your thoughts on outreach?’ My cough got worse. She says, ‘Warren, would you get a glass of water for him, please? We are all anxious to hear his thoughts.’ And I sat there grasping for what my thoughts were while she waited for my cough to get better. There was an evil smile on her face that I didn’t think was mystic at all.”
Maizee interrupted the tale when she came by with coffee, and said “Wilbur, there’s Judy honking out front.”. He grinned and stood up, “I’ve got to go, fellows. See you tomorrow.”
I don’t know why we put up with him. Wilbur does it every time, leaves us hanging on the fence. Tells good stories, though.