This morning, as homework, I asked my students to write an ode to our home for the past four days, Milia Mountain Retreat. This is the ode that Jean West from Port Orange, Florida wrote:
Even though I arrived when you were busy, quick hands extended fragrant coffee and toothsome cookies, making me feel as if it was a homecoming instead of a visit.
You embraced me between arms of limestone and slate like my grandmother, earthy and earnest, and caressed me with herb-laden breezes and butterfly wings.
You unplugged me from the tyranny of our electronics-driven world with the rich scent of smoke and fire’s warmth, satisfying my soul more than flickerings on a screen and reminded me one can connect with strangers with a handful of bread dough as readily as the Internet.
You forgave my foibles, following cats on my treks instead of local guides and pinning my door shut with a branch, utterly forsaking Room 9’s key. In return, I embraced your quirks, the boulder in the bathroom and oven cattery, Daniel Boone’s ponderous biography tented with a Greek childrens’ book.
You drowned me in olive oil and greens from your hills, and olive oil and meat of your kid goat, and olive oil and favas and last year’s pumpkin, urging me to “eat, Jean, eat” not just for the nourishment of my body but for my soul.
You reminded me of the futility of locks on doors or hearts and, rather, to take in only that from its proper place and season.
Although I depart without leaving a trace on your busy lives and ancient valley, you are indelibly carved on my memory, with gratitude.