I know what to expect when I go to the monastery for my April retreat. And I was not disappointed.
The daffodils that Brother Joking planted years ago were blooming along the bank by the old hay barn. The woman with the lovely British accent made us delicious meals, served on the sunny porch of the women’s guesthouse. Retreat Friend and I stayed in the old stone farmhouse, where we drank tea and ate chocolate while we read each other’s books, wrote in our journals, and talked about our lives. At Compline, Brother Tractor played the harp in the candlelit chapel while the other monks sang the evening prayer.
But best of all, April is lambing season. The southeast end of the barn was set up with pens for laboring ewes. “About 180 sheep born so far,” Brother Beekeeper told me. “And 24 ewes still to go.”
The babies, when they’re born, come out front hooves first. “Like a dive,” Brother Tractor will say. They’re often covered with yellow slime or blood, their wool matted down, and their first steps are often wobbly. Sometimes a newborn will walk around on his knees for a few minutes before he gets the hang of using his legs. But amazingly, within hours, each newborn is transformed into a cuddly white lamb who looks just like the stereotype of what a lamb should be.