My time at Bear Brook was intended to be a short one, as I was set on going to law school. But as the old Jewish saying goes, people make plans and god laughs. I had fallen in love with the blue-eyed Boston boy whom I had shared my bed, body and life with for 8 months. Unbeknownst to me however, this no good cheatin' man had another girlfriend in Kentucky whom he had invited to come and live with him in our little community in the woods for the following season. It shouldn't have been a shock to me, as his own sister told me that she loved her brother, but he treated women like shit. I didn't want to stay at Bear Brook with the happy couple and I decided to leave.
I had put off law school and was now heart broken, homeless, jobless and directionless. I packed up my car and drove to the Omega Institute in upstate New York, where I had a friend working. It was possible to stay at the institute in exchange for 4 hours of labor a day. I was pretty devastated when I arrived at Omega, and needed to get my bearings. I shamed myself for falling in love with such an asshole. One of the very first songs I ever wrote was called the “Devil's Apprentice” in tribute to his cold heart and cheating ways.
I didn't count on you/that wasn't the plan/but I got knocked over by a red- headed man/So instead of leaving/I'm wantin' to stay/ That devil boy is dangerous/ Oh but I like his ways
Sometimes his horns/ are standing tall/ But there are times/when they don't show at all. His manners are polished/oh but don't be a fool/He's the devil's apprentice/He'll break every rule
He wears a chain/that's five miles long/ a string of women/he's loved and wronged . Well he don't know/ I was born to be free/ And I can get dangerous/If you try to chain me.
Omega is a place of beauty and silence, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, dance and meditation with a huge kitchen capable of serving over 300 people per meal. I volunteered for kitchen duty, this time to be a grunt, rather than the chef. The kitchen was immense with three full sized walk-in coolers, 100 gallon steam kettles and the largest rice maker I had ever seen. My first shift there I spent the entire time taking the stems off of cherry tomatoes for the beautiful salad bar. Four hours of mind numbing monotony. This was the first time I had considered that cooking could be a meditative practice. After the meal was ready, and before we opened the doors to the hall, the kitchen staff all held hands around the food and Om-ed, praying good thoughts into the food. The conscious act of directing positive intention into food, made me aware of how my mood could be transferred into food, like in the book, “Like Water for Chocolate.”
Something strange was going on. Tita remembered that Nacha had always said that when people argue while preparing tamales, the tamales won’t get cooked. They can be heated day after day and still stay raw, because the tamales are angry. In a case like that, you have to sing to them, which makes them happy, then they’ll cook. 218-219
My final weeks at Bear Brook had been consumed by the heart pain of unrequited love. I had cooked all my sorrow into the food, unknowingly, and had possibly negatively effected my friends in the process.
The rest of my time at Omega I spent sitting in silence and reading, The Red Tent, the tale of the 12 tribes of Israel from the perspective of the women, by Anita Diamant. This book helped me to reclaim my power, and end the shaming of myself for my poor taste in men. A lesson that I would, unfortunately, have to learn again and again. When I was ending my stay at Omega, one of the head chef's offered me a job in the kitchen for the end of the season, but the pay was so minimal I scoffed at his offer. Here was a place that people paid thousands of dollars to come to and they paid their staff nothing. It was another awakening into how little kitchen work is valued in our society, and how if I ever planned on having the American Dream, I was going to have to have a profession.
I left the Omega Institute and headed south to Maryland and the Gaia Healing Center where my godmother, Marianne lived and worked. I was continuing my education in life, food and nutrition in the hills of central Maryland dairy country.