November 07, 2010

Breath

May safely graze

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.

Monastery in November

7 comments:

Val said...

I'm glad you had a good visit. And that first is one of the most beautiful autumn photos I've ever seen.

sherry said...

Why is there a red mark on one sheep and a blue mark on another?

jo(e) said...

Sherry: The monks must have been sorting them out for something -- I don't know what.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I love that smell of incense and wax. I need to find me a monastery! Sounds like yours is always a place of refreshment and renewal.

readersguide said...

This sounds like heaven --

Linda said...

Gorgeous! The markings on the sheep are from breeding. A marker of sorts is placed on the ram and will mark the back of the ewe when she's bred. It helps the shepherd know that the ewe has been bred and by which ram.

jo(e) said...

Linda: Oh, thanks for the explanation. That makes sense, since these sheep are bred ....

Nice to hear from you! We need to talk one of these days.