I am a broken down, exhausted, injured and drained woman. Lackluster to say the least. I just got home from my bi-annual retreat. I have a great gig, I am a servant, I pay for my stay by working. I am the youngest member of a team of old age “new ager’s”. I’m 45 years old. I am the grunt, heavy lifter, and soldier in the group. I accept this job with great pride but this go around, my shoulder didn’t. Hold that thought.
I love the word retreat. The word gives you permission to run away from life, ignore responsibilities and get away. “Honey, I’m going on a retreat, I need to get centered”. Throw mental health in there and it’s a ticket to quiets-ville. Don’t worry men, there are retreats for you, it’s called golf.
Twice a year I run away to the Kripalu Center in Lennox, MA. Kripalu is not a destination spa, they have a healing arts center for massages, facials, energy work and “someone please manipulate my muscles and let me lay here on the table services.” It is a health and wellness center that offers top-notch yoga, spirituality, nutritional and holistic programs throughout the year. If you practice yoga, you know the name Kripalu. For pilgrims like me, it is nirvana. I love it!
I am an assistant faculty staff member who helps facilitate the “Radiant Cleanse” program. Alison Shore Gaines is the master/guru/leader and all around awesome person. She knows her stuff! “Radiant Cleanse” is an educational experiential nutritional juicing workshop. Some might call it fasting but that sounds like starvation. That’s not what we do. We educate, support the guest’s detox and fill their bodies with fruit and vegetable juices, all the healthy stuff Americans don’t eat. Don’t worry, after day three, you will forget you have a stomach.
I am the juicer! Imagine working in a kitchen that is trying to serve thousands of meals a day. It’s organized insanity. Every morning at 8 am, 6 am if you want to take yoga class but I don’t, I go to the kitchen with another staff member. Olga is my juicing cohort this go around. She is from Russia, in her seventies and as spry as a fifty year old. We suit up with apron, hair net and gloves then it’s hello “Big Mama” time. Big Mama is what I call the industrial sized, galvanized steel, juice machine. She is strong, meaning very heavy, loyal, she has been with the program for over 15 years and giving, the juice is delicious! This is of course THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB besides Alison’s. It’s the guest reason for coming! No stress is involved. I have mastered the “don’t think about it just juice it” method of mind control.
Now the work begins, the chaos behind serenity. Rolling carts need to be pillaged. It can get exuberantly vicious trying to snatch one when no one is looking. Nobody makes eye contact when they have a cart. I hide one nightly with Big Mama on it for the next day hoping that no one will want to lift her. It usually works, Olga taught me, she’s a veteran and knows some tricks. Utensils, buckets and mass quantities of produce are hoisted onto the stolen cart, by me, and rolled out from the apartment sized walk in fridge. The coolest place in a very hot kitchen. My private office. I have tricks too.
After set up, the juicing process starts. It runs like a well oiled machine, remember mind control? However, not this time. On day five, Big Mama reached nirvana. She died. Never having to annihilate another carrot or apple again. She kicked the juice bucket, went kaput and said adios. The mechanical chain saw sound that kept us in our meditative state croaked. She was the ONE AND ONLY juicer on the property. Well, you can imagine the look on myself and Olga’s face. This was a catastrophe, a disaster, a fiasco of epic proportions. Beads of sweat similar to Niagara Falls began to fall from our dumb struck faces. We needed to deliver the sacred liquid elixir to a group of 23 lip licking, thirsting, craving guests. We were F…..
There was no time to think, we had to take action! Frantically we sent word to our leader. News came back, switch the juice menu! An “all hands on deck” siren in my head started to blow. Off to the chef we ran like retired Olympians. A plan was hatched. We would make a tomato, cucumber, kale and parsley juice. Lot’s of water in those veggies, easy juicing.
The “I Love Lucy” tv show season 5, episode 3’s grape fight came to mind. My mind is amazing with important numbers. During this episode Lucy finds herself stomping barefoot in a big vat of grapes with an Italian peasant women. The two get into a raucous grape throwing fight wrestling the grapes into liquid. This would be our solution, except I would wrestling a Russian! You can view the Lucy clip here: http://youtu.be/8RMyvF48GTg.
Just as Olga and I begin to take off our shoes and warm up, in walks the chef with a jack hammer weed whacker looking machine with blades on the end of it. Modern technology prevails over feet stomping. This would become our juicer. With 5 gallon buckets of tomatoes, squash, strainers, towels and lot’s of chanting, I plugged in the powerful instrument and started weed whacking the veggies into mush while Olga was slicing and dicing like she’s a Ginsu knife salesman. Blending, straining both body and juice, pouring the elixir between buckets over and over again and endless taste tests, we finally produced a liquid that would drinkable. It was hard physical labour and my middle age body felt it. I now feel qualified to apply to the city of Philadelphia’s streets department as a concrete worker. I don’t know if they have an age cut off?
My shoulder is maimed temporarily, gratefully I’ve made a new friend, a chiropractor. He’s an old hippie that likes juicing. I hope to barter in juice, I’m over qualified and have the best recipes around! This is a fair exchange. I can’t wait until March for my next gig. I will meet the “new/younger” juicing machine. I will reserve judgement that newer is better until I have a drink. With experience and wisdom, under any circumstance and physical “opportunities”, we old timers get the job done, with excellence. Don’t forget to drink your veggies.
Cheers or in Russian, Nasdarovie!