Allan Hunter was on his knees right beside me stretching out over the pond to see the pollywogs. “Look! That one has hind legs now. How’d that happen, Patty Lou?” I remember trying to answer his impossibly huge questions. Trips to the park with Allan, our minister, began very early in my life and were so special! He actually asked everyone about these things because life for him was a miraculous adventure. Other times he was quiet, deeply focused on a person or a situation, talking about it and then praying for more love to be there or for guidance.
When I was eight, Allan decided my whole Sunday School class needed to be in the desert. “It is a magnificent place! We need to just be there.” Our parents quickly agreed among themselves that there were too many kids, meals to fix, and, mostly, that it was too far to trust Allan’s driving–he was known for exuberant distractions even while driving. Finally, all seven from my Sunday School class together with Allan and two mothers, went to a big cabin in the desert east of LA, apparently miles away from anywhere.
The next morning Allan talked with us about the desert–about the silence but also how, if we listened very quietly, we might hear the wind, the scamper of a horny toad, or maybe something else. We also talked about rattlesnakes–we needed to be aware and careful. Then we went outside and he told us to look at the big boulders here and there around us. Each of us was to choose a boulder: we had to have our own and not be too close to anyone else. And then we were to just sit there as quietly as we could: quiet in our body and our mind, waiting to see what happens. Later he would call us back together and then we would talk.
I remember choosing my boulder and figuring out how to climb up on top. I remember looking all around for snakes, lizards, spiders; I looked for anything that moved. Soon each of us, and Allan too, was on a rock. Someone stood up and silently made some goofy motions and silly faces. I giggled and heard some laughter but it soon ended and then we were just there — being quiet together — each on a huge rock — in the immense and silent expanse of the desert — alone — and yet together.
I believe we sat there a long time, but of course I don’t really know. I also have no memory of what was shared in the discussion, being on my boulder again, or anything else that happened. I do remember each friend who was there and know that trip was unlike any other. And I remember the listening, not what I heard, but how it felt on the inside as I tried to make my inner self as silent as the desert. What I know today is this: it was on that trip and on that boulder that I began learning about meditation. Many of us there that weekend later became Quakers. That gift from Allan to us at age eight was without measure.
— Pat M.