The Benedictine monastery is high in the hills, surrounded by farmland and woods that roll down into a valley, above a sleepy river edged with piles of stone. Usually my friends and I go on retreat during April, during lambing season, but this year, our schedules didn't coincide and we arrived in mid-May.
The baby sheep have already grown plump and woolly. They're out in the pastures with their mothers, running and playing and bleating loudly every time they get too far from Mom. One little lamb kept leaping onto her mother's back whenever I walked near. The trees and bushes on the monastery property have flowered. We gathered lilacs to bring with us into the old stone farmhouse where we were staying.
The first day of our retreat, we stayed inside to talk, drink tea, and listen to the rain that drummed against the glass. But by that evening, the sun had appeared to dry the grasses and muddy paths. We ate dinner up at the Women's Guesthouse at the top of the hill and as we walked back down, we had a view of a brilliant blue sky, with sun warming the sheep pastures and clouds sweeping across the sky.