November 08, 2010

Walking

Afternoon walk

"So what do you do on retreat?" Friends ask. "No television. No cell phone. No computer. No radio. What do you do?"

Well, I spend some of the time with my friends, talking. Mealtimes at the women's guest house often includes long, intimate discussions. The Benedictines don't keep silence, so the retreats at my usual monastery include conversation. Brother Beekeeper and I are friends: we usually find time to catch up on each other's lives.

But my friends and I are good at respecting the need for quietness on retreat, so I also spend a good deal of time alone.

I go to services in the chapel, listening while the monks chant psalms. When the chapel is empty, I sit down in the crypt, cross-legged on the stone floor, and stare into the flickering light of votive candles. I meditate, usually for twenty minutes at a time. I read, I write, I pray. I stare out the window and watch snowflakes spinning against the sky.

Most importantly, I walk. No matter what I'm working through, no matter what swirling thoughts I'm trying to sort out, I find peace by wandering through pastures, tramping through the woods, or following a stream. My spiritual life needs the slap of cold air, the rustling of the trees, and the wholeness of the sky. At the monastery, I leave my books and papers inside on the table, and I walk.

12 comments:

ChrisP said...

This is such an English rural scene. Would you mind telling which state you are in. All my images of the US come from cowboys in the desert and cops and robbers in the cities :-)
Thanks
ChrisPr

Leslie F. Miller said...

I have been missing something from my days. Air. You reminded me. I haven't breathed in a month. I'm going outside at 10:00. Yes. I'm going to breathe air and walk. Thank you.

You're a beautiful person, and I love what you write and think. You remind me to be better.

Meg said...

That's why they call this area of the United States "New England," ChrisP! Vermont, New Hampshire, upstate New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even parts of Pennsylvania are all this beautiful...very rural and picturesque.

jo(e) said...

ChrisP: The monastery is in upstate New York. It does look a bit like rural England, except all the roads are much wider.

Leslie: Aw, thanks.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

It sounds absolutely lovely.

Loren said...

Beautiful shot.

Sarah Sometimes said...

I want to go with you one day.

Songbird said...

Gorgeous. Air matters, so much.

julieunplugged said...

My comment vanished! I wanted to say that your annual monastery trips have been so inspiring, but I never seem to follow through to do the same. I would like to make that a part of this year. Thanks for modeling such good healthy self-care. <3

jo(e) said...

Julie, I'm coming out to visit you in June of 2011 on the way to the ASLE conference. Maybe we ought to make a trip to a monastery part of that visit? There's a cool Trappist monastery not that far from you.

julieunplugged said...

I love that idea! If you give me the dates, I can block them out (assuming I'm in town!). I have a homeschool conference in Philadelphia June 23-25. Otherwise, looks like I'll be around. Yay!

Cathy said...

I reallllly realllly like this picture and would love it for my desktop background. I want to go on retreat with you too.