Some jottings from my journal, my brain on retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit: these felt like ideas that should affect us in the everyday, in everyone.
On retreat there is a dining area in which silence, save gently playing chant, is the thing. Funny thing, silent meals--things people would ordinarily have lots of repetitive things to say about go unremarked. Like birthday cake. No one’s name is on it--it’s just there as we walk in for lunch one day. What are we celebrating? The everyday. Being here. Without joke, without fanfare, or commentary. A quiet little joy in a small piece of cake.
The music keeps me here, at an unremarkable table covered in plastic, the heat rising outside. Content in quiet, because it’s the rule. I miss Isabella’s chatter, and don’t, at once. I know in the abbey her brand new eyes would see pretty color in the glass, and marvel at echo. She would want to do things we adults consider inappropriate in the setting, but smile at or squelch with shushing. If we become more childlike, shouldn’t we explore the space God has given us, in spite of its boundaries?
This summer our family will reconnect--their realities will become ours, if only for awhile, and we will learn from each other in this space of time we’ve been given. We will reminisce, learn new things about each other, marvel at how we have aged, and wonder at the mystery of where it’s all going, knowing the next step, into the beyond, into that place where all the answers are, where all the departed congregate and greet each new member and tell them the tale of how they got there, and maybe even show them the way of those they left behind.
I would like to think these earthly gatherings are a little taste of what we’ll see then. This place we live has us grounded under the beauty of falling rain, the vast skies moving in the hot summer afternoons, giving the impression of haste. It’s hard to see past the gifts God has given us in this time to another space and time, to imagine what our ancestors enjoyed or were thankful for on a daily basis. Perhaps for now I am trying too hard to live deep in the past or too far into my future. Got to ground myself, let this earth hold me down with gravity and rain down refreshingly and touch my senses in this moment, so that I can find with greater beauty all that brought me here and all that lay before me. So that when I see it, when I see what is possible, I will find the joy that has always been present. God’s great surprise to me, that all answers are held in the palm of our hands, that we are indeed wrapped in a grace uncommon, unlike what we could imagine with our feeble minds.
This recent experience on retreat opened me in a way I did not expect, has caught me off-guard and put me only slightly off balance--off the one I seek and strive for daily. I feel more deeply I am on someone else’s time now, on borrowed time, precious, need to use it properly, save only what I need. I can barely summon the words--my ideas have become like poems, barely perceptible pictures made clear through the emotion and senses. I feel as though I am wandering through a kind of woods of words and ideas and facts, a magical place that hangs midair, that beckons me down the path with sparkling light, like fireflies at dusk, lifting up. While I want to linger here, I know there’s even more and better just ahead, and in reconnecting with the purity of experience, I’ve reached for this unknown instead. For some indefinable, radiant joy, given freely, chosen freely, enveloping in a way nothing of the material world can even promise. Our tokens of the material are reminders of the best yet to come, talismans however beautiful on our weighted walk.