The women’s guesthouse at the monastery used to be a farmhouse, and the chimney from the old stone fireplace goes up through the bedroom at the top of the staircase, creating a little nook where the monks have placed a desk. That’s the room I stayed in last weekend. As soon as I arrived, I emptied out my backpack and spread my things on the desk: my monastery journals, my daily journal, the manila folder that holds the first three chapters of my manuscript, a yellow legal pad, several pens, three books, and my laptop. From the inside pocket of my cloth bag, I took out my purple-and-white Two Row Wampum bracelet, two long braids of sweetgrass, and the crystal that Mystic Woman gave me during a Full Moon ceremony several years ago. I arranged them just below the lamp.
Next I unpacked my bag of clothes, dumping most of them into the top drawer of the wooden dresser. I hung my winter coat in the closet, jammed my mittens and winter hat into my camera bag, put my wet sneakers near the heat register, and put on a pair of fuzzy socks. On top of the chest of drawers, I arranged my essentials: a toothbrush, the kind of toothpaste they make for old people with sensitive teeth, deodorant, and eyedrops. Plus, my cell phone. I didn’t plan on making any phone calls, but I use the alarm clock on the cell phone for timing sessions of daily meditation. (Twenty minutes exactly, if you must know.)
I picked up the puffy quilt that I had taken from Monking Friend’s room (she had extra), wrapped it around my shoulders, and sat down in the comfortable chair. The ceilings in the room are low, as if the room was designed for someone my height. I could hear the sounds of the house. The stairs creak, the floorboards shake, and the furnace rattles when it comes on. I could tell from these comfortable noises that my friends were unpacking in their rooms, and that the woman with the lovely British accent who lives in the house was running the dishwasher.
My journals and books glowed under the warm light of the lamp on the desk. The windows were dark, but outside, I knew, were sheep pastures stretching down the hill to the bookstore, the sheep barns, the big hay barn with the white cross on it, and the chapel where the monks would soon be gathering for Compline, the last service of the day. I looked around the simple room and I thought, “I have everything I need.”