12 August, 2007


When I arrived at Native Spirit Camp, I immediately became calm and like a Zombie. I was so relaxed that if someone would have pushed me over, I would have just fallen onto the ground and laid there. This was in stark contrast to the previous 5 days working with the Austrian Army. “In the Army” I was an overactive machine who couldn’t calm down. I barked orders (in a peaceful way of course) and strangely enough people listened… Because of my initial leadership/Commander position (which was given to me), the image that I actually knew what in the hell was going on was instilled in many of my fellow student's minds. Little did they know that I often felt completely helpless when confronted with a problem. At one point I went to Major Rott and said that I either need to scream at the top of my lungs or run as fast as I can away from this place because of the stress and pressure of the ‘challenges’ bestowed upon me.

Major Rott took me aside and showed me some breathing/visual exercises that I could to do calm down, which I thought worked wonders, but about 3 hours later Major Otis came up to me voicing his concerns that he thought I was stressed out. At the time of his confrontation, I was “on security” sitting in an army jeep along with another student drinking coffee and hot chocolate (it was freezing and raining). I told him that I actually felt really relaxed at that time. He gave me a look that said “you are full of shit”. I of course know that look well because it frequently finds itself forming upon my own face… We talked awhile longer and he said that he has been observing me and he does not understand why I haven’t collapsed because of my high activity level.

He then asked me what I do to relax; hmmm...he stumped me. What do I do to relax? I thought of the beach in Spain…but then I never actually sat still on the beach, what with the sea beaconing me in or Mother Nature calling me to pick up stupid people’s trash they have carelessly tossed aside. TV? Nope, don’t have one. Books? YES, books, but now I read to learn so brainless relaxing novels are out of the question; my thesis takes priority. A long hot bath? I’ve only had a shower stall for the past year. I then tried to convince him that I was indeed relaxed at that moment, really!… But then when the jeep door opened suddenly, I jumped, spilling my coffee in my lap; I received ‘the look’ from the Major along with the question “So you’re relaxed, huh?” I didn’t reply, but it did make me think. Can I relax? How? What makes me relax?

After the Army challenges, we went directly to Native Spirit Camp; you know the one who choose me as their “Cover Girl”…During the 7 days at the camp the feeling of relaxation was the focus on my mind. I tried to become as relaxed as I could; which would be an easier task here as there would be no “bombings; gunfire; mines; people with their arms blown off; frantic voices saying “Commander, what do we do”. I did not even 'organize' my things in the teepee; instead I just had piles of clothes on the wood floor. (honestly!) Unlike last year, if someone was not ‘doing their chores’ I really didn’t care. I let others take the ‘mother role’, although Andi contradicts me saying that I still took over more than I should have. I walked around, I meditated, I sat by the river, I relaxed.

The third to the last day, I started wondering if I could come back to this place after the program. It's REALLY expensive to do workshops here (usually lasting only a week at a time), so I knew I couldn't afford to do that. I decided to talk to Peter the owner/director and see if I could stay there and work for room/board/food and no money exchange. As the day grew nearer I started getting cold feet. I didn’t want to seem like I was trying to get something for nothing. Finally the last day (literally the last 2 hours before we left), I pulled Peter aside and said I had a question to ask him. Now his English is not the greatest so I had to make sure I was really clear about my proposition. I had been rehearsing it over and over in my head so I just blurted out, “Peter, do you think I could come back in Sept. after the program ends and do work here without pay.” I then started rambling on about how I can clean the teepee’s; mend the fences; cut firewood for the winter; blah blah blah…he stopped me and looked me straight in the eye and said that he felt like the place needed me. He said he had already had the same feeling that I would be a great asset there and also that I did not need to “sell myself” to him, as he is very much aware of my capabilities.

I suddenly wanted to cry! I felt so overwhelmed with joy! Peter then gave me one of his huge bear hugs and said “the Schalklhof welcomes you”. So….this will be my new home after the program ends on Sept. 7th. How long will I stay? 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years…Only I will know when it is time to leave...I’ll feel it and then move on.


Anonymous said...

WOW! That sounds perfect! Just try to focus on the task at hand until then. Will you get paid? And, btw, I do not believe you about not keeping your tepee straight--I'm sure your "piles" were organized!! Glad you're back! Rachel

Melinda said...

I will work for room/board and food. I didn't want to take on a paid position because I want the freedom to move on when I feel it's necessary, plus I need lots of time to write my thesis.

and Okay you got me...my piles were somewhat categorized BUT they weren't neat! and I did have my dirty clothes separate from the clean ones :-)

Anonymous said...

riiiggghhhhttt.... just say I got you! You can't totally lose OCD from a week in Austria! Can't you just get paid a "little"? That's buggin' me....

Melinda said...

There's no reason for me to get paid. I will work just enough for my room and board. What better deal is there than that? A beautiful place to settle down for a little while and read and write. Take a look again at the photo...people PAY 1,000's of dollars to stay in a place as serene as this :-) I feel honored just to have the opportunity!