September 29, 2008
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
The barns at the monastery are filled with hay, so much hay that the barns can't hold it all. Out in the sheep pastures, haystacks rise like a row of little houses. In the monastery orchard, monks and guests have been picking apples. Wooden ladders lean against a tree near a pile of wooden crates.
Inside the bookstore, bags of apples crowd together on folding tables. The monks sell apples they've raised, cider they've made, honey from their beehives, beeswax candles, wool from their sheep. Brother Beekeeper explained to me that they don't have as much honey to sell this year: a black bear came through and took his share. Beekeeper has since moved the beehives to the rams' pasture, which is protected by an electric fence.
The state recently made it illegal to sell unpasteurized cider: in response, the monks put up a sign explaining that they are no longer selling the cider. They are giving the cider away for free, and guests are welcome to make a donation.
It's a misty, rainy weekend. In the little guest cottage, Monking Friend, QuickSmile, and I drink hot tea and eat chocolate. My two friends settle down with books in the two chairs by the window, while I pull on my raincoat.
The trees on the hill are turning rapidly — red, yellow, orange — but I only catch glimpses because fog keeps obscuring the view. Whiteness piles up in the valleys between the hills like clouds that God yanked down and set aside for later. I tramp through a barnyard that smells of hay and manure.
My sneakers are soon soaked from the wet grass as I cross the high sheep pasture, walking over to take a photo of the monastery's lone llama. The donkeys, in a field near the barn, butt each other and bray as I go past. The sheep turn to look at me as I approach, and then — as if on signal — they all turn at the same time and trot farther away.
Once I'm thoroughly wet, I return to West Cottage, where I strip off my wet clothes and join my friends by the fire. Through the big picture window, we watch the sheep wandering through the mist while we talk and catch up on the details of our lives.
Posted by jo(e)