After the frantic beginning of fall semester, a busy month of classes and meetings, and an exhausting week of staying up every night to write letters that I will never send to my brother, I am taking a break, a long weekend that I've been looking forward to. I am heading to the monastery.
It's a Benedictine monastery, high up in the hills, a cluster of buildings that includes both a chapel and a sheep farm. Two close friends and I will stay in the old stone cottage, talking, relaxing, reading, and napping. On Saturday afternoon, NurseFriend and I will hike down through the woods to the river, to sit on flat stones in the sun and talk. Saturday night, Monking Friend and I will stay up talking, taking a walk in the moonlight. I will go to some of the services, gathering with the other guests when the bell above the chapel rings. Brother Joking and I will exchange insults. Sunday afternoon, Brother Beekeeper and I will hike through the fields and woods, rambling through the barns, stopping to talk to the sheep and the donkeys.
When I want time by myself, I will walk down the long stone staircase into the crypt, to sit cross-legged in front of the candles. Most people just light one candle, but I will light lots of them, praying for all the people I love as well as people I have never met. I love to stare at all the flames, flickering and dancing in the darkness.
I'll be offline, of course, with my journal and a pen to record my thoughts, taking time to think about that has happened in my life since my last visit, six months ago. Always, a visit to the monastery is a time for sorting through my life, filing memories, thinking over my choices, and getting my life back into balance.