And then suddenly, I am in Dresden, Germany, standing in a sun-drenched cobblestone courtyard, looking dazedly at the flowers while my boss stands in the office inside, ordering my meals.
By which I mean to say this: awhile ago now, maybe back when it was still cold, one of my two bosses at the the retail baby store where I work as a sales clerk and also teaching classes decided that it would be a good idea for her to go to Dresden to complete her babywearing certification training. (Yes, such a thing exists, and it is treated with deathly seriousness here in Germany, here at Die Trageschule. My boss's husband refers to the trainer as "your Jedi master," and this captures the situation pretty accurately.) Needless to say, as soon I heard that such a trip might be in the offing, I could not rest until I was included. I pestered my bosses pretty much day and night for a couple of weeks, and finally, worn down I mean convinced, my bosses declared that I would be going to Dresden, too, and the store would pay.
The funny thing is that because the store was paying for and organizing the trip, I did not do much travel preparation. Of course I made sure that my husband and son would be taken care of (they are packed off to Abuela and Tia in Arizona), and of course I made lists and packed, but I did not look at a map, I did not purchase a phrase book, and I did not bother to even think about things like itinerary or activities or how I might be getting from one place to another.
So it almost seemed as though it was by magic that I ended up, after ten hours of overnight travel, standing in a Catholic kloster in Dresden, Germany, on the hill that rises above the river Elbe, too dazed to even try to help my boss talk to the non-English-dominant staff about how many meals we wanted and when we wanted them.
There are two main buildings here, one containing dormitory rooms and one containing seminar and meditation rooms. There are flowers the color of a fluorescent orange crayon that is in my son's crayon jar, with deep, dark, velvety centers. There is a small meditation chapel with an altar and a few stools of unfinished wood. There are enormous tangles of jasmine spilling an inconceivably sweet, wild scent onto the walking paths that wind around the property. There are stations of the cross. There are dark, quiet woods uphill, above the buildings and the gardens. There are masses of lavender and a few trellised grape vines. There are glossy jetblack squirrels and small bobbing poppies with paper-thin petals. There is clover everywhere. There are sheep. The birds sing. There are wildflowers on the table with our home-made lunch, and there is coffee and tea and cakes at 4. I have stumbled, it seems, into paradise.
There are a few minor problems. Like: I wish I had brought my Buddha Machine and my green jacket. Or: I blew my breast pump out, and simultaneously shorted the circuits in my little room with white muslin curtains, because I am too stupid to figure out how to use a currency converter plug. Or: our babywearing Obi Wan is taking us out to lunch today and I am worried that there will be nothing on the menu but meat, specifically some terrifying German meat like wiener or wurst or whatever, and I will have to eat it in order to be polite. But these are only small blips, and I am mostly in a dreamlike stupor, allowing myself to simply be carried by the current. I sit in a puddle of sunlight amidst piles of baby carriers in the room where we are having our training. I gently finger the nodding flowers as I walk past them on the paths. I collect pine cones on my morning walk, shivering against the early chill. I eat crumb cake dusted with powdered sugar and filled with vanilla custard that is nearly identical to the stuff inside the Boston cream donuts at Dunkin Donuts, except better. I am away from my son, away from my husband, away from my home, away from my friends. I am reading, though not much. I am listening to music, though not much. I am not really even thinking. When I do think, my thought is that when I get back to New York, it is time to have another baby.