June 24, 2008
Beneath the clouds
Saturday at the monastery, I ate breakfast in the little guest cottage, sitting at the table in front of the window and looking out at the sheep grazing in the sun-touched field while I sipped hot tea. But for lunch, I walked up to the Women's Guesthouse, an old farmhouse at the top of the hill. It's a pretty walk that winds between two sheep pastures and then up through hay fields filled with grasses and wildflowers. I stopped halfway up at the oblate cemetery to look back at the view, peering through the line of trees to make out the familiar buildings.
The white steeple of the chapel rises to the left, with the dark monastery — that is, the building where the monks live — behind it, mostly hidden by trees. Beyond the chapel, the low square building holds the bookstore across from the old stone farm house where I sometimes stay when I come with friends. The bigger men's guesthouse, with its meeting room and library, rises square and bulky behind the stone farm house. Beyond that cluster of buildings, I could see the famous barn of the monastery, with its white cross on the front, and the two tiny guest cottages tucked in just below them. Below the trees are more barns and the farmyard where the farm equipment is stored.
A car pulled up next to me, its engine humming. It was Brother Beekeeper, on his way to do a some errands. An extrovert living in a community full of introverts, he always has time to chat. He entered the monastery in the fall of 1960, which means he's been living on this piece of land for my entire life. He'd been busy: an old tree had fallen on one of the beehives. And one of the fences needed to be mended.
Even despite my stopping to talk to Beekeeper, I was early when I reached the Women's Guesthouse. The hayfields across from the house cover a rounded hill so they seem to go on forever, with no trees to break the view. The woman who lives in the guesthouse, Lovely British Accent, had hung sheets and towels out to dry, and I snapped a picture of the clothesline before I came through the door into the kitchen.
"Welcome back," Lovely British Accent said as she gave me a hug. She turned back to stir a pot on the stove. "You're taking pictures of my laundry?"
She rolled her eyes. "I had a guest who was an artist, and she sat out in a chair and painted a picture of my laundry hanging there." We both laughed. Funny to think that the stiff, faded towels at the monastery — not exactly luxury items — might be famous.
I offered to give her the link to my blog so she could see my photo, but she shrugged. "I don't have a computer."
We ate lunch on the enclosed porch of the guesthouse, a sunny room with windows on three sides. Usually there's a handful of women at the guesthouse, but it was empty this weekend — very unusual — and it was just the two of us for lunch. That gave us time to catch up on all our news, everything that had happened since my visit in April, and talk about our plans for the summer. After we'd eaten, we sat for awhile with our tea and watched storm clouds moving across the sheep pastures below us. "Storm coming," Lovely British Accent said. "Time to take down my laundry."
Posted by jo(e)