I spent the second weekend of July at a yoga retreat. In addition to practicing vinyasas and meditations, we learned some chanting, which is a fancy term for singing Sanskrit phrases whose spellings are unfathomable and meanings incomprehensible. There’s one particular tune that got stuck fluttering between my skull and rib cage, so I Googled the words. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu: May all beings everywhere be happy and free.
After the retreat, I took a train up to Vermont, where I spent two weeks volunteering at an art and wellness center with a vast organic garden. I wrenched weeds from the soil and greeted glimmering earth worms and bumblebees and gem-winged beetles. I picked blueberries and currants, harvested garlic and oregano, and hauled woodchips up the hill to expand the paths between the different patches where green vines outstretched like giddy limbs.
At the end of each day, I was splotched with dirt, soggy, frizzy-haired, sun-spent — and smiling. Every evening shower was the best shower of my life, even though I was never able to remove the brown grit from underneath my nails. My forearms remain etched with thorn scratches, and there’s a blue bruise on my bicep where I got punctured by a wild rose. My knees got stung by nettles twice over.
Still, while I worked, scattering droplets of sweat like glitter, I couldn’t seem to stop humming that Sanskrit blessing under my breath instinctively. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.