Once again I have come to Wonderwell ( www.wonderwellrefuge.org) with a group of women who are living with advanced cancer. A week ago, there were 12 coming but, as always, sadly happens, some had to cancel their plans, so we are 8. The reasons for the change were all important and unfortunate: a dear friend's husband had unexpected cardiac surgery and asked for her presence, the coverage for an ill husband fell through, a relative died so there was a family funeral, and one woman felt too unwell. I wish we could sweep away all these problems, so they could have been here to share the bliss.
It is glorious New England early fall weather here. As I sit at the familiar table and gaze out at the mountains, there are pockets of scarlet and gold; the grass has lost its' lush summer green, and many small shrubs and plants are yellow. Time passes. When I was last here in June, summer was full.
For me, there is now a pattern to these special days. I arrive early on Monday and talk with the wonderful staff, set up the "party bags", make my own bed. The women begin to come about noon; a lovely cold buffet lunch awaits us, and that first meal is friendly, but a little awkward. Half the women here this week are returnees and half are here for the first time. Especially the first timers wonder, at the first lunch, if they made the right choice in coming. What would this be like?
After lunch, we settled in the beautiful, spacious, sunny, fireplaced-at-both-ends, group room. And we talked. And talked, And talked. Almost four hours passed as we shared our lives and then our fears and worries and joys. Then a little free time that moved into cocktail time; we gathered on the large porch with the warm afternoon sun and those mountains. Wine and hors d' oeuvres appeared. More talk, and, by now, lots of laughter. Dinner was fabulous as always. Several women had asked me if we could have mac and cheese one night (it is always vegetarian here), and the new chef delivered in style. I am a mac and cheese fan, and this was one of the best ever with four kinds of cheese. Several vegetables and salads. Breads and desserts.
To sleep under the stars. In my case, literally, as I am on the third floor with a skylight over the bed. Once when I was here, in the bed, I awakened to pounding rain and a view of dramatic lightning. Last night, it was "only" the millions stars.
Breakfast and I type now to the background of voices and laughter. Shortly we will begin our morning program of gentle yoga and meditation. The day and the peace and the blessings of this place will flow.