November 07, 2010
It was raining when Retreat Friend and I arrived at the monastery, but the old stone farmhouse where we were staying was cosy, once we turned up the heat and turned on the lights. We’d stopped for Chinese food on the way through town, so we sat down right away for hot soup, veggies, and rice. We’d just finished when the chapel bells began to ring: time for prayer.
As I pulled open the heavy wooden door to the chapel, warm air rushed out. The chapel air has a musty, spicy smell: the smell of incense, of melted wax. I breathed in the smell and could feel the tension behind my eyes loosen. The monks were gathering in a semi-circle around the stone altar, and Brother Beekeeper gave me a wink.
It was a lazy, quiet weekend. I stayed in on a rainy morning to grade some papers, then write in my journal. Nurse Friend arrived, driving from a city where she’d attended a conference. She made coffee, Retreat Friend made tea, and the three of us talked all afternoon. We talked about grown kids, about career plans, about marriage, about divorce. We’ve been coming to the monastery for 13 years, and we know it’s a safe place for long, serious conversations.
This morning, I rose early to find the sheep pastures covered with frost. By the time I was done taking a shower, the sun had come out from behind the clouds. Blades of grass crunched under my feet as I walked with my camera, taking pictures and breathing in the cold fresh air. As the sun began warming the landscape, I wandered through the sheep barns, along the ridge of trees, and through the apple orchard. By the time I returned to the guest cottage for breakfast, my wet hair had frozen into icicle dreads, my hands were numb, and I felt wide awake.
Posted by jo(e)