October 30, 2007
Reading through the mist
Saturday morning at the monastery, I woke early and walked outside into a foggy, rainy world. White mist wove itself through the hills, across the sheep pastures, contrasting with the gold, yellow, and red foliage. My sneakers and the bottoms of my pants were soon soaking wet as I wandered through the barnyard. Even though it was early, the monks had been up even earlier: the first prayer of the day is at 4:45 am. As I wandered over to the apple orchard, I could see Brother Swings Arms walking up the hill. Even though he was carrying an umbrella that hid his face, I could tell it was him from the way he walked and the way he swung the one arm that was not carrying the umbrella.
The wind and cold rain gave me a good excuse to spend the rest of the morning inside, with my books and journals. I sat at the round table in front of the big window of the guest cottage, with a cup of tea and a piece of Monking Friend's homemade banana bread. Monking Friend and I each bring a stack of books with us when we go on retreat, mostly books that we've read over and over again, voices we want with us on retreat. We look through each other's books almost as soon as we arrive, both smiling at the familiar names. That morning, I chose a book my friend had brought, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, and a book from my stack, Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. I alternated reading chapters of those two books, while also writing in two of my journals, the black spiral-bound book that is my everyday journal and the journal with the purple cover that is my special monastery journal.
Monking Friend and I read and wrote, mostly in silence, although sometimes one of us would look up to share a quote from what we were reading. My monastery journal contains the history of my visits to the monastery, 24 visits in all, and I like to read through and see how much I've changed. This sheep farm high in the hills has been an important part of my emotional and spiritual life over the last ten years.
At noon, the bells at the top of the chapel began ringing, and I put my raincoat back on to to join the monks at prayer.
Posted by jo(e)