1/9/2015. I am still in a warm motel room in Oneonta, NY, compliments of my dear sweet friends, Robert and Joan Dieker. I haven’t shared this story, one of my favorites, in a couple years:
Early April 2001, on the Appalachian Trail. I was planning on getting out of the cold and misting rain by staying at the Graymoor Friary at Garrison, New York. My Appalachian Trail Data Book said that the monks at the friary offered a free nights lodging and meal to thru-hikers. I was really looking forward to being inside for the night in a warm bed. I found the Friary and started looking for the building where my hot meal and warm bed were awaiting me. I approached a very old nun; I’m betting she was in her nineties! She was very pleasant and when she smiled, only one tooth was revealed. I asked her where they let the thru-hikers stay. She told me they were no longer doing that. Some convent had burned down recently and the homeless nuns were offered shelter in the dormitory formerly used by thru-hikers. Now, I had to pitch my tarp and sleep in the mud at the friary baseball field. Now I would have to eat those friggin’ Ramen noodles again! In the friggin’ rain, in the cold friggin’ rain! “Yes,” The old nun informed me, “The wonderful Brothers here at the friary have donated their building for such a wonderful cause.” All I could think was, “Screw the brothers and the nuns!”
The kind old nun continued, “The Brothers have taken an oath of poverty you know.” I said, “Well, I haven’t! If they really want to experience poverty, have one of ’em come down here and trade places with me. And I’ll go up there and eat a hot meal, sleep in a warm bed, and wake up to a hot breakfast. In turn, the seeker of poverty can come down here in this cold drizzling rain, try to get that damn wood burning stove lit to heat up those damn Ramen noodles, then crawl under the tarp to sleep and wake up in that cold rain without breakfast. Now that Sister is poverty! They should be delighted to swap places.” The old woman bent over and slapped her knees in laughter. Every time she came up for air, I could see that one tooth; she looked so sweet and seemed to be having a grand time. I started laughing too.
The two of us must have been an odd sight; standing in the cold drizzling rain, doubled over in laughter in front of a big statue of some Saint. We said goodbye and I headed for the baseball field, in the rain. As I lay under my tarp, I could visualize the monks up there in warm beds with full tummies, experiencing all that poverty. I could also visualize the round face of that old nun laughing with her one tooth shining, I had made her laugh… a very good thing. LOVE LIFE.