I’ve written about Vanaprastha, the third stage of Hindu life when one retreats to the forest in pursuit of solitude. It is also a time to reap the rewards of one’s labor and reconnect with family and friends. Part of a connected harvest involves correction.

Proverbs 15: 31-32 He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

I am blessed with friends who tell me the truth, and I do my best to reciprocate. During a visit to a married friend who has a retreat in the Adirondacks, we two couples experienced first hand the strengths and weaknesses of our marriages. Genuine hospitality prevailed without party faces.

My friend and I talked about the decisions we had made in life, about our families, careers and our selves in transition. Honest connection allowed us to correct one another.

“It’s difficult to let family go after investing so much.”

“I fall into that trap, too, as well you know.” Thus necessitates an open heart.

“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my profession.”

“No matter how much I dragged my feet, that mindful connection ended for me. But I found another, and you will, too.” Thus necessitates an open mind.

“I can’t do what I used to be able to do physically.”

“Neither can I, so I’ve changed my diet and exercise routines and do what I can.” Thus necessitates an open body.

We parted in gratitude for abiding friendship and frankness.

On the way home, Keith and I visited my uncle and aunt in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Keith had never met Uncle George and Aunt Mary, and I hadn’t seen them in 20 years! We swapped stories; Uncle George sang some old ditties and played his accordion. I told him about my writing project. He listened and asked questions – and encouraged me to do the same.

Proverbs 25:12 – Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. Through our connection, I heard Uncle George’s correction. I hope I remembered to thank him.

Last night after supper, a snake bit one of our dogs. Freya’s muzzle and throat behind her jaw swelled painfully; she drooled saliva and blood and became lethargic; her breathing and panting rate doubled. Other than maybe bee stings, we didn’t have the foggiest notion what was wrong. Our vet told us to take her to Greenbriar Emergency Animal Hospital in Charlottesville. At the clinic, the doctor treated Freya with IV fluids, antibiotics and pain medication. Through the night, they monitored Freya’s blood pressure and watched for signs of bleeding. Snake venom can lead to difficulty clotting blood.


On the drive into town at 6 this morning, I tried to keep my mind, heart and body open and connected. Fog from lack of sleep mirrored nature’s fog in the Rockfish Valley. As the vet spoke, I listened, wrote down information, asked questions and noted corrections. Then I delivered Freya to her regular vet in Crozet and drove home again. By 8 o’clock, the fog had lifted from all but Afton Mountain. I pulled over and took this picture. Wisdom’s mystery lifted heart, mind and body – along with a second cup of coffee.


I’ll pick Freya up at 4 this afternoon – all is well. Meanwhile, Keith will clean up near the woodpile where we think Freya ran afoul a copperhead. Connection and correction – that’s the harvest of marriage.


  1. Sarah Myers

    I am glad to hear that Freya is doing well. I loved the stories of your visits – they have a wonderfully warm tone. Perhaps it is the weaving of Proverbs that creates time to reflect on your message. I don’t know. But the post is lovely writing. See you soon!

  2. Carole Duff

    Thank you, my friend. Freya and Heathcliff can’t wait to meet you!

  3. Carol cutler

    Just read this blog post, Carole.(I am beginning to catch up after being gone for 2 weeks.)
    It reminds me of an essay my Rachel Naomi Remen from My Grandfather’s Blessings called “The Friction in the System”. On Concorde flights across the Atlantic 40 years ago, a passenger was surprised to discover that no one actually kept the plane on course. Because of its phenomenal speed and the slowness of human reaction time, the course was maintained by two computers. The first computer took a course reading every few seconds and, if the plane was off course, instantaneously fed this information to the second, which would make the needed correction and confirm the new course.
    The passenger noticed the sound it made, which was almost continuous, so he asked a crew member, “What percentage of time is the plane off course?’ and the crew member replied “About ninety-nine percent of the time, sir.”
    Remem commented that people put so much friction into their own feedback systems protesting being corrected and defending “being right” that we would never get to our destination as the Concorde did. She made several good points like not demanding of ourselves that we be on course all the time, letting go of pride, recognition and even success at times so we can listen to those who have the courage to offer us honesty and help us navigate toward our purpose. We might even say “Why, THANK you” to someone who says we are off course rather than friction-ful responses that obscure the correct course. Connection is such an important part of correction.

  4. Carole Duff

    Loved your story and commentary, Carol. Thank you so much!



  1. Snakes | Notes from Vanaprastha - […] Our resident copperhead probably consumed the mice whose nests we’ve found in our woodpiles. A couple of years ago,…
  2. The Way of Nature | Notes from Vanaprastha - […] me especially since I’d had a close encounter with a copperhead and our dog Freya suffered a snakebite two years…
  3. The Sting | Notes from Vanaprastha - […] drooled. His muzzle swelled. We wondered if he’d been stung by a bee or bitten a copperhead, as Freya…

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