The weather* (don’t ask me to describe it, because I am running out of synonyms for abysmal) has given me a burning hot case of Spring fever. Are you similarly afflicted with the urge to strip down to your pallid flesh and leap, starkers, into a body of water? Well, thankfully, it was time for my annual jaunt with my girlfriend, Lori. This year, it was back to Oregon, but no urban restaurant hopping this time. We were headed into the woods, to Breitenbush Hot Springs, or, as my husband calls it: naked camp.
It’s so good to get away, I thought, as we wound our way into the snowy Williamette National Forest. What?…Wait a minute – snow? Where’s Spring? I had pictured myself skipping along the hiking trails, observing the budding new foliage while birds landed on my finger like in Cinderella. But Persephone can’t be rushed, apparently. The goddess of Springtime was still huddled up in water-repellent gore-tex.
So instead, I found myself watching a deer, her bored companion beside her, standing chest deep in the snow, masticating heaven knows what flora, for a quarter of an hour without taking another bite of anything. I became transfixed, and also sympathetic to her girlfriend, who reminded me of my friends/husband who have had to sit by patiently while I consume fibrous, labor-intensive salads. What was this dogged ungulate working over, pine cones? Pebbles? How, you may wonder, given my negligible attention span, was I able to observe this little tableau with the attentiveness of a Chinese filmmaker? Well, without the distraction of cell and internet service, a person can become obsessively attuned to nature. I was actually in Qi Gong class at the time, starring out the window while beaming emerald green light to my liver with an invisible ball of energy. Don’t knock it, my liver has never felt better. I figured if I was going to be at an unapologetically – and rather touchingly, I admit – hippie enclave, then I better start my morning with Qi Gong. Why do it if you aren’t going to do it?
I gave in, a bit, to the lingering winter, and had a moment in the pool at the edge of the woods, with snow falling softly on my face, that I thought maybe this is what it’s like to be in Japan. I was finally, blissfully unclad, and no one was around. I am a devoted nudist, (partly because I find it difficult to coordinate outfits) but I am also an introvert, so I don’t need company while I am bare. It was all so lovely. Then, the next day I awoke to seven fresh inches of snowfall and a car that looked like an enormous snow cone. I was, as my companion will grimly concur, a little grumpy.
But allow me to rhapsodize about the food at Breitenbush. It’s vegetarian, organic, plentiful, and fully deserving of its sumptuous reputation. Thrice daily I waited, practically panting, for the sound of the bell. At one point, I was in yoga, breathing through my heels, when it gonged. I was about to jump through a window and land on the deer, when the teacher said in a soothing-to-crazy-people voice, “I forgot to mention we go a few minutes over time in this class. We can eat any time, but we can’t all come together like this any time can we?” Is she really asking me that? Eat anytime? Who’s the crazy one here? When we did our final release of energy – or something – she said, “Here we are, relaxed, refreshed and -” “Hungry,” I interjected, pathetically. You should have seen me hightail it to the dining hall for breakfast where I found dates to put on on my oatmeal along with a two-cheese frittata! HOW DID THEY KNOW??
One of the breakfast cooks, Jamel, said, “I put a lot of love into the food, so it’s so great when people notice.” Then she hugged me. She definitely put love into that frittata, because if two cheddars doesn’t equal love then I don’t know love. Food made with love will get me out of bed in the morning and yes, I will walk through the snow for it, and even do pre-breakfast yoga. This is what drives me on. Martin Luther said nothing is accomplished in this world without hope (the hope of breakfast, for instance, or Spring). But nothing – NOTHING – worthwhile is accomplished in the kitchen, without love.
*This was the coldest winter since 1985, the wettest February on record, and rainfall from November to mid-March exceeded that normally received in an entire year.