In Springfield, a river ran by the Froehlich house. It had its source in a cave, a quarter of a mile away. Aaron Froehlich recalls going to the cave, first on his tricycle, then on a bike, and later on a motorcycle.
A cave, a river, and a neighborhood with no sidewalks—that was Aaron’s life until he was 18.
And now, on board the Semester at Sea ship after the bus accident (in which half a dozen of his shipmates had been injured, four had died, and a faculty member too had died on an overland trip from Delhi to Agra, India, in a tourist bus), Aaron dropped his plans to work and study in Dharamsala with the Dalai Lama. He wanted to drop out of school.
He says, “A few weeks later, I was sitting at dinner with one of my mentors on the faculty, and she said that I did not have to drop out, but that she knew a program at Friend’s Global Education that would suit me perfectly. Her husband was on the faculty of Global Education College at Long Island University, where I could enroll for a program to study Comparative Religions in Japan, India, and Israel.
“Sometimes in life you just know that something is meant to be,” he said.
Aaron joined Friend’s college in his junior year.
In Israel, he encountered another transformational moment. He was at a Crusader Church at a Benedictine Monastery in an Arab Village, attending vespers. One of the nuns at the Benedictine Monastery was taking her final vows. The nuns in procession in their long medieval gowns, singing Gregorian Chants, the Easter meal that followed—all transported him to another age.
At dinner, Aaron could hear two American women discussing the afternoon. “One woman said, ‘If you ask me, this might as well have been a funeral. It is such a waste of a life to be locked up here.’
“On one level I disagreed with her, but on another level, I was questioning what it meant to be ‘called’ to follow one’s vision. My existential questions surfaced again. I asked myself, ‘What does a monastic life mean?’
“I explored this further when I wrote my thesis in my senior year, interviewing two nuns and two monks. It was called “Voices of the Heart” and was published by the college.
“At this point, my life took another turn. Celeste was living nearby, and the two choices before me became marriage or the monastic life. After graduation, Celeste and I traveled back together over Europe.
“We exchanged vows at the Picos Benedictine Monastery in New Mexico. My spiritual leader from the monastery in Israel was visiting, as was Sister Ruth from Israel.
“We have the words ‘Choose Life’ from Deuteronomy inscribed inside our wedding bands.
“The comparison comes to me between EcoVillage and the monastery. Both are set apart, and many people here have a sense of ‘calling,’ as different from ‘making a living.’
“EcoVillage offers us an opportunity to live a life of integrity. The challenge of making a life in EcoVillage gives me an opportunity to transform our imperfections and to raise our boys, David, 8 years old, and Ely, 5, who can grow up in community close to nature.
“One day my loved ones will hopefully gather after my death, and if they feel the void of my loss, perhaps my spirit, and my own search to live a meaningful life, will help them fill in the void of my passing and be like a compass pointing them in the right direction,” he said.