March 22, 2010
Listening to water
I spent five days of my spring break in silence.
Southern Retreat Center sits at the edge of a hill above Polluted But Scenic River in the City That Burned During the Civil War. The 20 acres of land once belonged to a rich woman who donated her summer home to a religious order, who began holding retreats there in 1961, the year I was born. The chapel has two walls of glass overlooking the river, and hiking trails lead down to the river and then through the woods to a waterfall.
Silence can be very restful. I’d pass other retreatants in the halls of the guesthouse and I’d sit with them at meals, but we never talked. We’d smile at each, hold doors open for each other, or pass silverware, but we didn’t exchange words. I was writing every day, working on my manuscript, and I loved that my train of thought was never interrupted.
That’s not to say I find silence easy. I don’t. I’m an extrovert, the kind of person who talks to everyone, and I’m used to a noisy household. All that introspection, all that time inside my head could easily drive me crazy. What saved me were all the water noises at this retreat place.
In the morning, when the sun warmed up the flagstones near the fountain outside my window, I’d go lie on the stones to feel their warmth and listen to the splash of the water. Several times each day, I walked down to the river and sat on a bench, listening to it rush past. My favorite spot was near the waterfall, where I could lie in the sun and hear water cascading down rock. If I looked in the other direction, I could see cars moving along a road, far away, people rushing past in their busy lives while I spent hours and hours just listening to water.
Posted by jo(e)