by Justin Remus, New York, NY
Our Omega plan was simple: Monica, my fiancee and budding permaculture star, would attend the regional workshops. I would hit the sauna, practice yoga and meditation. After a brutal last 10 months at my job for a magazine publisher, that seemed like a good fit. Then, at the last second, we decided I’d attend the workshops, too. After all, I’ll be the curator of Monica’s website for her consulting biz, Beyond Organic Design, responsible for its design and managing its content on a daily basis.
The first night, group introductions were made. I felt painfully shy and out of place but got through it. Later, en route to our cabin, Monica and I walked along the dirt trail through the rustling leaves, the brisk, fresh air providing a stark reminder we were no longer in Manhattan. Once ensconced in our new digs, we were interrupted by what sounded like a sorority house commando raid in the adjoining room. Who were these rambunctious cabin mates?
Workshops followed the next day. Topics ranged from the mundane to the ambitious. I listened and absorbed what I could, asked a question or two. But I felt in over my head. This was a whole different world. More group sharing ensued and I survived that, too. In between, delicious organic food was savored at a large eating hall that reminded me of summer camp. Omega is the more rustic counterpart to Kripalu, where Monica and I celebrated Christmas two years ago.
Gradually I got to know people. Everyone was inclusive. John, whom I identified with because he was relatively new to permaculture, was starting a tincture business using mushrooms he gathers himself, revealing the labor-intensive process of preparing the tinctures and their medicinal benefits. On our second night, Jillian Hovey gave an extraordinary slideshow from her amazing permaculture design work worldwide. Then, the following morning when sharing the common bath, we uncovered the identity of least one of our cabin mates—-the mild-mannered Jillian. Who would’ve thunk it?
The third day: more workshops. Throughout, I kept thinking maybe I should’ve stuck with the sauna and yoga. But after the group communed in the late afternoon, fun and interesting activities were planned that night. Monica and I had to exit early. To my surprise, I felt sad. It was like leaving a new family behind. I thought about sharing my feelings with the group, but then everyone was shuttled outside. Photos were taken. After saying our goodbyes, Monica and I took a cab back to the train station, but our passage was delayed.
While waiting, gestures of people’s kindness lingered in my memory: Rachelynn confiding during one workshop that her seamless confidence when conducting the Open Space was a little bit of a front… Jono, telling me not to be too hard on myself when I said I was overwhelmed one day outside after lunch… Bonita’s gentle laugh and bright smile… Frances inviting me to play frisbee… Jillian, locking onto me during one group session, saying, OK, you’re feeling uncomfortable, next time you may be leading the session. I doubt that, but it was still a nice thing to say.
by Justin Remus, New York, NY