By Juniper Lesnik
Way back in my teens, I wrote my college application essay about Seclusion Hill. It was about how traveling to India since the age of seven had shaped me – seeing lives so different than my own, connecting deeply with people like Mani and Eruch who taught me about fun and honesty and faith, and finding a sense of belonging halfway around the world. I remember the last line was, “I come to let the hill remind me who I am.”
I went to India almost every year growing up, and into my twenties. This year marked the longest I’ve been away from Meherabad since I was seven. My last trip was in 2008, with my fiancé at the time. We were traveling through India together and were only at Meherabad for a handful of days. During those days, dear friends threw us an engagement party and I will never forget the feeling of standing there, being garlanded, while that circle of people I’d known my entire life, who had shared some of my most significant memories, wished us well.
I didn’t know at the time that I wouldn’t be back to Meherabad for nearly six years. We went home, got married, and proceeded to have two children back-to-back. Our lives were full of sleepless nights, silly Sundays and earthly joys. There was no time for a weekend away, let along a pilgrimage halfway across the world.
Then this January, as my youngest turned two, I found myself headed to India for work. Nervous to be that far away from the family, I wasn’t sure about adding on extra days to go to Meherabad – I felt my heart would be torn and I’d just want to go home. On the other hand, I would be so close, and I could also imagine feeling heartsick at smelling and hearing the familiarities of India, and not making the trip to Ahmednagar. I decided to make my best compromise and fly to Pune, then go to Meherabad for the weekend. But I feared this would feel like such a tease – my trips used to be weeks or months, even a year once or twice. How could I go barely long enough to get both feet on the ground?
But it wasn’t like that. I arrived and hopped in a car for Ahmednagar, only to realize my driver had no idea where Meherabad was. I had no working cell phone and my Marathi is long gone. I was hopeful I’d “know the way” and be able to direct our path. But the truth was I didn’t even realize we were in Ahmednagar till the driver told me we had arrived. We approached a traffic circle with at least four or five options, and I just happened to look out the window to see a wooden sign that said, “Avatar Meher Baba Samadhi” with a big red arrow pointing the way.
And the whole trip was that way. Want to see this friend? No worries, he will invite you to dinner. Wishing you’d seen that friend? Oh there she is, the only one at the samadhi when I happen to arrive. In those 48 hours, I got to do nearly everything I could have wanted in my stay – seeing those I love, touring the latest developments on Meherabad Hill, going to Meherazad to take a brief nap in the blue bus, resting with the breeze wafting through the MPR, and laying my face against the cool, fragrant stone inside the samadhi. My final morning, He created some errand to bring me down to lower Meherabad where I got to sit on the porch of the old mandali hall and go into the Rahuri cabin and take the original old stroll up Meherabad Hill. A walk I have often dreamed about, and that always makes me feel like I am going home.
And then I did go home. When my family met me at the airport, my little girl said “mommy, I was looking for you, but I couldn’t find you,” then gave me a joyous hug. I realized, for her, my ten-days-gone was like one big game of hide-and-seek. It wasn’t about the time. It was about the reunion, and the presence. Which is kind of what I felt with Him. “Ah, I was looking for you. Welcome Back. Welcome Home.”