To update my blog I get in our car, our beat-up VW that we bought four years ago when we re-mortgaged the house at a runaway interest rate and secured $18,000 in cash that we spent on fixing the roof, getting an above-ground oil tank and $2,600 went for the 1989 VW Golf with about 85,000 miles. It was a big step up from the little Metro that I'd bought for $1,800 when I was leaving the ashram and they let me plunder ahead of time the small savings account they made each of us maintain, a certain amount from your monthly stipend deposited there automatically so that whenever you finally left the ashram you weren't penniless. I remember when that rule came into being though no one else ever made the connection out loud.
She lived next door to me, a short woman with large-framed glasses and greying brown hair in a non-descript cut. Her face was scarred from acne. She had a tomboy quality, always dressed plainly. She was generally good-natured as far as I could tell and worked somewhere in the bookstore warehouse.
She wasn't a close friend, but because she was on staff like me and not part of the glamorous flock that went on tour, accompanying Gurumayi around the world, but one of us who stayed behind and made our way through the Catskills winters, someone who, like me, showed up for the big Saturday projects like planting trees in the rain or chopping massive amounts of vegetables in time for a celebration – she felt like family, someone I always said hi to.
A year or two after I moved in she got a cat somehow. Maybe a stray. She kept it in her room, which wasn't allowed. She thought somehow they'd bend the rules for her. After all, she'd been there so long. But they didn't. The struggle went on for several months until she gave in and found a home for the cat. She called the cat "L.D." I don't remember what "L.D." stood for.
It was such an upheaval – those months of resisting the administration – that the guru deemed it was time for her to go out into the world. The guru sent the message even though the guru was in India at the time. It came as a shock to all of us who traveled on the shuttle with her every day, drank chai with her at five in the morning on our collective way to the Guru Gita chant before breakfast, passed her in the dining room three times a day. Like hundreds of others, she was part of the décor.
It took a long time for her to leave because she had no money. I think the ashram ended up giving her money. After that the savings account rule came in. Heaven forbid they'd want you gone – especially someone as odd and unuseful as this woman – and they got stuck with you.