September 2, 2015

WWOOF 3: Gosport

The setting: rural Indiana.  The sun is shining brightly, the trees are still green, but the breeze blowing through them is just chilly enough that it reminds you fall is coming.
Picture it: I am standing outside, hair tucked behind my ears, barefoot, overall-clad.  Goats are baa-ing sweetly in the background.  The matriarch, Petunia, is tap dancing gently on the milking stand, anxious for her feed.  I kneel beside her, place my hand on her udder, and milk streams easily into the metal bucket between her hooves.
The reality: goats do not baa sweetly, they definitely kick when they're on the milking stand, and it takes me about a year to get a quart of milk.  Also, I didn't actually coordinate wearing my overalls with milking the goats.  But just - picture it.  Here, this might help!
Sunday morning I peaced out of Pennsyltucky and drove drove drove.  I stopped in Akron, OH, because it was a name I actually recognized, except - surprise! - it was a complete ghost town.  You would have thought there would be people strolling around at noon on a Sunday, getting lunch, checking out the shops, what have you, but nope.  Which was in a way good, because I waltzed up to a restaurant and asked if they allowed dogs on the patio, and they said not usually but because it was so empty I could take a seat in the corner (thanks??).  LITTLE DID I KNOW I was being followed by a woman who was so enamored by Bixby she came right up to me and asked if he was fixed.  "OF COURSE he's fixed," I said, because the world sort of needs tiny Bixbys but mostly not, to which she expressed disappointment because she had a female who looked like him and had just gotten out of heat.  A complete stranger tried to set up a sex date with my dog.  And if that wasn't bad enough, after she finally left and I ate my veggie burger and was waiting on the check, a guy walked up to a) tell me it was his birthday, b) say he didn't realize dogs were allowed at the restaurant, and c) show me a picture of his dog on the phone, and that was when I realized that he was married to the woman who was trying to pimp her poor dog out to mine.  We left very, very quickly after that.  DO BETTER, AKRON.  But then when I was almost to Gosport, I saw camels, so hey, roadtrip redeemed.
When I got to Gosport, there was a party on the verge of starting.  Farmer Aaron had invited a bunch of friends over for a potluck and I rolled up fifteen minutes before the guests came, which was about the most overwhelming thing I could have done.  I met a million people and forgot 90% of their names and wound up going to bed before it was even dark out.  About the only thing I did all night was give the very good first impression of telling Aaron and his lady friend Leah the sex dog story.  The next morning, though, I learned how to MILK A GOAT (see above).  Amy, the other WWOOFer, who was amazing and who I wouldn't have gotten through the week without, showed me the ropes with daily chores, etc.  We all went to downtown Bloomington so Sakshi the renter could pick up his kiddo, Ocean, from school (both of them were awesome too), and we all got ice cream from the Chocolate Moose and went to see some monks do monk stuff, which turned out to be chanting and something called the Skeleton Dance and hanging prayer flags on the playground fence.  I bought the tiniest string of prayer flags to hang in my car for protection while I'm driving.  Kendra and Joe, two of the people I actually remembered from the potluck, were there too.  They both have incredibly magnetic personalities, and I was so glad that they kept popping up at the same events as us throughout the week.  So that was neat.  After the monks, we drove to Stinesville, which is itty bitty, and pulled up to a house and all got out and visited Aaron's new friends.  They were Natives, that's how they referred to themselves, some complicated mix I couldn't keep up with of Crow and Miami and Cherokee, and also German-something.  I'd never met anyone like Christopher - his hair parted into two braids and he wore a bandanna around his forehead and moccasins on his feet.  He spoke like he was very old and very wise, which I guess he was, but not old, he's my age.  He just seemed so in his element, and I guess it's rare, at least in Chapel Hill, to see Natives that aren't either a sort of educational caricature or dressed in typical modern fashions.  They all came across as very authentic and unostentatious, which I like in a person.
Tuesday was a Work Day with a capital W and a capital D.  Goats and chores and following Aaron through the woods while he tried to convince us to use a portable mill he made out of a chainsaw.  When I raised my hand and said I wasn't comfortable with that, he handed me a machete and told me to hack at saplings for a while, at which point I started breathing very heavily and Amy (god bless her) restructured the plan while I changed out of chacos and leggings and into jeans and hiking boots.  We turned some saplings into poles and took a break, and we were all sitting in the living room when Aaron said, "So, you guys want to do some more work?" and I said, "Not really, but I will if you need me to," and then we all went out and did some more work and I grumped around like the queen of the grumps.  And then we started eating beans and rice, and we didn't stop eating beans and rice until three meals later, minus breakfasts.  Beans and rice for dinner lunch rice dinner beans lunch beans.  Oh, and tater tots.  BUT there were these giant chocolate bricks in the outdoor freezer, and one day when everybody was elsewhere, I snuck out with a butcher knife and hacked off a piece that turned out to be the size of a dinner plate.  HOLLAAA.  (I still haven't finished it.)
The first time I ventured to Bloomington without the farm crew was Wednesday, and I went to a nice little bar called Bishop for $3 pint night.  I am trying very hard to like beers and to be adventurous about them and not just go for the lightest/fruitiest thing every time, but it's a challenge.  I drank something called Lager of the Lakes, which was pretty good, and then I choked down a RyePA (get it??), which was not my cup of tea.  Or pint of beer.  A whole bunch of Indiana University grad students and graduates who all really like beer had biked there, and they were neat.  Andy, the Tinderboy who invited me (yup, that again), introduced me to the grilled cheese truck, which was on point, and then we walked around campus.  Well, he walked.  I hardcore parkoured and chased rabbits.  He showed me the limestone buildings and the sycamore tree the chemistry building is built around and told me that it's not so difficult to get to the moon, you just need to aim some really powerful rockets in the right direction, and then I drove home through the starry Indiana night.
Thursday, Tinderboys Nik and Jake led me on an incredibly thorough bar crawl of Bloomington.  Quaff On was nifty but one of my beers cost $8.50 and the other cost $1, Upland had SUGAR CREAM PIE and that's all I care about now, Brothers sucked butt and nobody had the decency to give a poor little southern girl a free tshirt, Bishop was still Bishop, Root Cellar had a speakeasy vibe and a band and AC like whoa, Upstairs had thongs hanging from the ceiling (TinderNik was a lot more enthusiastic about this than I was), and after that they were going to ANOTHER bar and I was like, "Peace out, crazies."  What's really weird though is that the three of us knew some of the same people, Indiana to North Carolina.  The world is so big and so small.  And has at least one too many bars with underwear on the ceiling.
Friday began the most varied spiritual weekend of my life.  First off, we all went to a yoga class, but wait, not the kind of yoga you're thinking of, we just listened to a lecture on the spirituality of yoga and sang Hare Krshna Hare Rama chants and ate homemade Indian food.  Neelish (forgive my spelling!) said that effort and grace are both necessary for spiritual realization, and although this isn't a new concept or something I didn't know people believed, I liked hearing it laid out so simply.  The next day we went to another chanting buddism event, which was really lovely.  We came in late and I was sent to a mat at the very front of the room, right in front of Swamiji.  He painted a red tilak on my forehead and said, "You are blessed," and then he led us in kirtan, which is just music and chanting, for two hours.  Afterwards, in an un-faith-related twist, Amy, Sakshi, Ocean, and I went to this sweet little theatre downtown to see a student-run production of Alice in Wonderland.  It was wonderful, there was so much talent, and I was so surprised to find out the director was seventeen years old.  I got all teared up at the end, the very end, after everybody had bowed and because it was the last night, they made the directors get up onstage and presented them with a Wonderland map, and then everybody did a big hug and yelled and MAN that last-show exhilaration is something I didn't realized I missed so bad.  I got up early-ish on Sunday to go to church with Sakshi and Ocean.  It was a Unity church, and the speaker was a comedian-musician, which was a little weird and not super spiritual for me, except when he led us all in this two-part song.  All the men sang the low part and all the women sang "Ave Maria, kyrie eleison," and it was beautiful and full and we did it over and over and sang our voices up to the top of the high ceilings.  And the prayer angel watched us and was absolutely horrified.  That same night, we all went to another church, a very tiny Pentecostal church built in the 80s with handpainted murals of angels on the walls.  Christopher and Tessia were there, and they both spoke, almost everybody in attendance spoke actually, and most of them were related.  It was a VERY churchy church.  People sang and testified, and I sat there thinking about effort and grace and how Christianity, this Christianity anyway, focused more on grace (just being good couldn't get you into heaven, you had to have received Jesus Christ), whereas Buddhism is about self-realization and God-realization and all these things that seem to require a lot more meditation and inner focus than confessing sins.  Both of them are really beautiful ways to view salvation.  "Sometimes we need to walk on the backside of the desert to see what love is," said Christopher in his low bass voice, and I think you can really line that up with most any religion, most any belief, and it'll hold true.