February 02, 2015

Winter retreat

The chapel in winter

I decided to begin February this year in a place I love: the Benedictine monastery where I go with my friends on retreat. We arrived on one of the coldest nights of the year, but the little upstairs bedroom where I slept was cozy.

When I woke up Saturday morning, the sun was making the snow sparkle. Luckily, I'd brought lots of warm clothing. I dressed hurriedly, eager to get outside into the morning light. The icy cold air felt good in my lungs as I tramped up the road and down the hill toward the chapel, the barn, and the other monastery buildings.

I saw tracks in the snow, mostly deer and rabbit. The sheep pastures curved towards the woods, white and unbroken. I wondered where all the sheep were on this winter day. My footsteps were the only ones in the barnyard.

Barnyard in January

Tall stacks of hay filled two of the barns: these monks have a pretty large herd of sheep to feed. In the third barn, I finally found some sheep: the rams! They are kept separate from the ewes. One ram stepped out into the snowy barnyard to stare at me as I walked through. On this icy day, I envied the sheep their wool coats.


I love the way snow transforms familiar surroundings into something alien. The stacks of hay in the pasture looked to me like whales rising from a light blue sea. I wandered happily about, yanking my mittens off to take photos, until the my feet and fingers were numb, and then I retreated into the warm chapel to light some candles.



Sandy said...

Lovely photos!

robin andrea said...

Looks like a wonderful place for a retreat. The snow rounds everything into a softness without angles. Tranquil and beautiful.

Annette G said...

Thanks for taking me via your blogpost!! I could use it!

Val said...

Ah, good. I was just thinking of this tradition of yours the other day and was hoping you would do it this February of all Februaries. Love and peace to you, jo(e).

Lomagirl said...

Thought of you as a friend in need of sanctuary went off to a monastery last weekend. He said it was awful- the monks dour and uncommunicative- no joy- and I wished he could have gone here!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Such a joy to go there, I'd love to do it too.

Detroit is not quite so charming, but we have a retreat for you if you want to come.