Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Trip to Animal Farm, Part 2

I saw no one and wondered if I had missed a sign. Coming to a fork in the road, I paused, perplexed. Which way?

"Mom?" I heard Emma call. I now knew which way to go--toward my daughter's voice. I took the road more traveled, and that made all the difference. Reunited with her, the wind felt less cold. We studied a flower and waited for Nathaniel.

Soon he appeared, grinning and rubbing his arms. "I'm freezing!" he complained, still rubbing his arms in a futile attempt to free them from the wind's chilling embrace.

"Have y'all seen anyone?" I asked.

"No," they answered together.

We walked three abreast, following our "yellow brick road" and hoping to soon stumble upon "Oz," the Animal Farm Learning Center, where, according to our flyer, we would meet a guide who would take us on an "open house" tour which would reveal to us the secrets of sustainable living.

A faded sign directed us to turn left for the Learning Center. We trudged along, wondering aloud if we would find lots of people there. Just when we had decided that we had missed a turn, we spotted two structures ahead on our left. One elderly couple investigated the site. A Hindu statue protected the entry to the second building, lending it an air of being an ancient ruin. The thatched roof and plastered walls contributed to this feeling. We determined that the second building had to be the Learning Center, since the first was more of a pavilion. We entered the second building.

Woven mats covered the floor of what appeared to be a yoga center. Great expanses of jalousie windows soared to the rafters on one side. Small windows, low to the floor on the opposite side of the jalousied ones, lent a cozy feel. There were no exhibits, no slideshows, just a few bamboo chairs and a built-in window seat. "Maybe this is a Hindu chapel, instead of the Learning Center," I said to Nathaniel and Emma.

Exiting the "chapel", I approached the elderly couple and asked if they knew if we were at the Learning Center and if they knew when anyone would meet us there for the tour. They didn't know any more than we did but seemed content to explore the pavilion and listen to bird calls.

While I visited with the birdwatching couple, Emma discovered a cottage-style flower garden behind the pavilion. Delighted by the number and variety of blooms, she called for me to "come see."

Nathaniel, intrigued, studied the rustic, freeform pavilion walls, which were shaped to fit the tree branch that functioned as the walls' capstone.

It was now after 3:30. We had left home at 7:45 that morning. Feeling suddenly weary, I stepped inside the pavilion and gratefully sat down at a table. "How lovely it would be if someone appeared with a loaded tea cart," I thought. Looking up, the sun shone on us through a peephole in the intricately-designed ceiling. There was no rubber stamping, no "spec" building here.

The sound of a car engine disturbed my reverie, and I looked toward the road to see someone in a white compact car talking to the elderly couple. "How odd that someone would get lost out here," I thought, assuming that they were asking for directions.


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