Friday, August 31, 2007

It's The Friday Five!

I haven't been around for the Friday Five for awhile, so it's nice to come back to the topic of my favorite season:

It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, also known as Summer's Last Hurrah. So let's say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn. (People in other climes, feel free to adapt as needed.)

1. Share a highlight from this summer. (If you please, don't just say "our vacation to the Canadian Rockies." Give us a little detail or image. Help us live vicariously through you!)

Sitting in the middle of the shallow rapids of the Speed River outside Guelph, Ontario, where I made my eight-day retreat at the beginning of August. Sun sparkling on water rippling over my legs, the only sounds coming from the water and the kingfishers and the occasional quacks of unsettled mallards.

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?

Yes and no. I'm going to miss the lazy days and I already miss the Lovely Daughter, who was home and hadn't been for a long time. But I'm ready to get started on the next part of my life.

3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.

Being here, at seminary, and being home, in my Ignatian spiritual direction program.

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach)

I should be so organized!

5. I'll know that fall is really here when . . . I am walkng through yellow and red and orange!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Intersections 4

I have moved a son into Gigantic State University, with students in bright red t-shirts pushing laundry carts piled with luggage up and down ramps and into elevators and down hallways that are bright and clean for at least one day.

I have moved a son into a teetering monstrosity of an old hotel-turned-into dorm at Windy City University, where a view of Lake Michigan makes all worthwhile.

I have moved a daughter into a dorm a week after freshman orientation ended and 2000 miles from where she expected to be and watched her rise to the challenge.

I have moved that daughter into a We-Survived-Katrina dorm and wandered a city and coast devastated and largely abandoned but showing signs of determination and the will to survive.

And now -- I have moved myself into a brand new seminary dorm which turns out to be the most luxurious of them all! I have my very own bathroom, something which in the 54 years of my life I have never once enjoyed, and I have AIR CONDITIONING.

It was pretty funny yesterday to see the other women my age helping young people move in as I was moving myself in. I think most of the -- ahem -- older students live in apartment style housing, but the dorm is less expensive, more convenient, and furnished. I saw people dragging mattresses out of vans yesterday -- no thank you! I have done my time in that regard.

I have just the tiniest feeling that I will be mining a good deal of humor from my new situation.

For now, I am back home for a day and a spiritual direction class, and then back to seminary for orientation tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Funky Winkerbean's Lisa is Dying

I've become attached at the hip to Funky Winkerbeam, a comic strip at which I'd never even glanced until a friend of mine, a hospice chaplain, mentioned this summer that one of its major characters was dying of cancer and had elected to forego further treatment. Suddenly I became a fan of heroic Lisa the lawyer, who challenges cancer by living each day with vigor and determination, and her embattled little family, circle of loving friends, and newfound son, whom she had given up for adoption in an earlier life.

The comic strip's creator gave a recent series of interviews from which I learned that Lisa would indeed die this fall, probably in October. He has been beseiged by fans begging for a miraculous cure, but he long ago decided that Lisa's story would be one of the hard ones.

Several days ago, on my daughter's birthday,
Lisa appeared before Congress to testify about cuts in funding designated for cancer research. "This," she said, "is a war we could actually win." She didn't have any hair, but she retained her eloquence and grace as an attorney and spokesperson for those who walk in her shoes.

But then,
a couple of days ago, Lisa's husband, commenting on her energy in going to Washington and coming home to host their daughter's birthday party, discovers as he cleans up after the guests have left that she has fallen asleep on the couch. I wondered, had that renowned energy of Lisa's suddenly and finally deserted her?

It seemed so
yesterday, when Lisa honored the promise she had made to her daughter to walk her to her first day of school; she hugged Summer good-bye and then, unable to rise from the sidewalk, told her husband that she would wait for him to get the car. Summer had already gone into the building, her memory of her first day forever unmarred thanks to the loving courage of her mother.

I remember one of my last significant conversations with my own mother. I was just a little older than Lisa's daughter. It must have been sometime in September; school had started, we were in the car, and she was telling me that there was a plan afoot for me to skip into third grade. What did I think about that, she wondered?

A terrible idea! I pointed out that cursive writing was taught in second grade; if I skipped ahead to third, I would be in a class in which everyone would know how to write in cursive ~ everyone but me. I would be the "stupid kid," the one who couldn't write.

Oh, said my mother, quite thoughtfully, at least in my recollection.

And then within the next few weeks, in early October, both she and my youngest brother were killed in an automobile accident as she drove me to second grade one day, and there was no more talk for awhile of anything beyond survival.

I can hardly bear to watch Lisa and her family, and yet I am mesmerized by the journey they are making together. They are only characters in a comic strip, and yet I am overcome by the desire to shield them from the October that will inevitably come.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Intersections 3

The plate is starting to fill.

I'm just back from the week-end retreat that marks the beginning of my training as a spiritual director. (Not silent, this one!) My class consists of nineteen people, sixteen women and three men, ranging in age from 42 to somewhere in the 70s. Mostly Roman Catholic but also Presbyterian, Lutheran, Southern Baptist, and Episcopalian. From all kinds of business and professional backgrounds, all having spent years in various forms of ministry, all having found their way to the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola. We had a couple of presentations focusing on Ignatius's story and on an overview of the Spritual Exercises, some quiet alone time, prayer liturgies, a presentation on the nuts-and-bolts of the program, lots of informal conversation time, and Mass this morning with a commissioning of the class that has just finished its two years of training.

It was energizing and exciting to spend two days surrounded by such a diverse group of people, every one of them brimming with the joy found in the Ignatian experience.

And . . .

Before I left the house on Friday afternoon, I tried to clean up some of the accumulated paperwork piles inhabiting the kitchen and dining room and discovered a thin and unobstrusive envelope containing. . . drum roll . . . notification that I have been awarded a Study Grant (i.e., a scholarship) from the national church! So, to those of you who are members of PC(USA) congregations which contribute to our educational funding: THANK YOU!!!! I am delighted to receive both the funding and the vote of confidence it implies from a committee that, beyond my writing and recommendations, has no idea who I am. I am also glad that I did not discover the envelope until it had been here, apparently, a week (!), since it provided me with a needed sense of grounding and balance just as I was preparing to dive into one of my two fall programs.

And . . .

I slipped away from the retreat very early on Saturday morning for a dash to the airport to kiss the Lovely Daughter good-bye. As I hung out with Ignatius and friends, she texted me several times during the day:

Just arrived in Phoenix!

I'm in Portland and so are my bags!

I'm in my dorm room!

And . . .

my father, en route home from a Sierra Club adventure in Montana, spent the week-end in Chicago with one of our sons. He seems to have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Son and Lovely Girlfriend in their adopted city.

I always feel somewhat unsettled by these weeks in which I am keeping track of family members as they move around the globe. I feel a little like a human GPS ~ and now I'm part of the movement, too!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Best Friends

Last night my women friends took me out for a send-off dinner. We drank margaritas and ate Mexican food and talked over the same things we've been talking over for twenty years: marriage , children, illness, death, REmarriage, children, schools, expectations -- and the new topic: someone is going to seminary.

At the end of the evening they gave me a photograph of the whole group of us on one of our hidewaway cabin week-ends (excepting me, who apparently missed that particular year). Ten middle-aged women laughing into the camera -- they all look as fabulous and funny and smart and loving as they are. We all laughed some more as we imagined of what my -- ahem -- younger -- seminary classmates would ask about this motley crew of women old enough to be their mothers.

"I'll tell them," I said, "that they should be so lucky."

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Last day of work for The Lovely Daughter yesterday. Two of her friends just picked her up for their amusement park excursion. Looking at the sky, I leaned into the car window and said, "If it starts to pour, be sure and pull over!"

"My mom JUST called to say that!" said the driver. Much laughter ensued. I wondered how many times in the past fifteen years we moms have made statements identical to one another's.

"Have you girls given any thought to when you might come home?" No, of course not. But they will be two hours away. "Well, when does the park close?"

"8:00," said the other passenger. "So we'll be home before or after 8:00."

More laughter.

I don't suppose you would believe me if I told you just how smart these young women are.


The Lovely Daughter leaves for college in Oregon on Saturday. One of the other girls would be headed that way as well except for the fact that this year it's France for her. The driver goes back to New Haven soon. The fourth of their little group is already in Singapore, where she arrived on her twentieth birthday a couple of weeks ago.

Last night our Session (church governing council) meeting ended with everyone around the room saying something to or for me as I head off to seminary. It was unexpected and lovely (as well as quite embarrassing), and I know I will treasure some of those words in the months ahead.

Lunch today with our senior pastor -- a final boost out the door. Sort of. I'm co-leading a class at church in a couple of weeks.

Meeting tomorrow for the first official time with my new spiritual director (yeah, I stuck with the Jesuits) and then a week-end retreat with all the people involved in my spiritual direction training program. I will slip out Saturday morning for a dash to the airport to kiss The Lovely Daughter good-bye.

Next week: the spiritual direction program beings and the seminary orientation takes place.

All these months (and years) of hoping and dreaming and planning are coming to the first stage of fruition. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


West Point Lighthouse *** PEI


Sometimes when I have nothing to say, I look back at previous years' posts.

Today, if it were today in any of the past six years, I would be back for the teachers' orientation week at the Orthodox Jewish school in which I taught Social Studies. I would be wearing a long skirt, lugging AP textbooks from storage to classroom, and gossiping with colleagues.

Instead, I continued my efforts to purge our house of its twenty-three years of accumulated junk which includes, among other things, the English papers of a long-ago college student. As I looked at reams of typo-filled onionskin pages and the stream of comments that cover so many of them, I felt intense gratitude for the rigor of professors who were unencumbered by either grade inflation or a sense of duty toward the "self-esteem" of their students.

On the positive side, a freshman year paper on Richard II, with a B+(+) at the end and a lengthy comment beginning with the words, "A very good piece of work -- well-written, well-documented. (It is very refreshing to come upon a paper that actually shows some control of style.)"

More typical for some classes, a paper on William Blake for a junior year honors class, graded C+/B- with comments beginning as follows: "You must sharpen your language and avoid rhetorical evasions and redundancies."

I have decided to evade further paper sorting and look redundantly at photographs instead. Two years ago the Lovely Daughter and I had just returned from a graduation trip to Prince Edward Island, Katrina was in no one's lexicon, and college in Oregon instead of in NOLA was in no one's line of vision. How quickly things changed in a week!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Intersections 2

Five wooded acres with a creek running through them. More than an hour's drive from any major city. For sale.

My grandfather gave me that land as a wedding gift. His transparent hope: that my husband and I would build a house next door to his and my grandmother's and raise our children there. An unlikely scenario, given our two-career dilemma at the time and the fact that, while I occasionally entertained Atticus Finch fantasies, our connections to my tiny hometown were simply too tenuous for us to establish ourselves there. But my grandfather was an optimistic man.

He was also a completely secular man. I know of only three religious legends about him. And the first of them doesn't even really concern him but, rather, his mother. A WCTU matron, she apparently sallied forth from her home every Monday to visit the rectory and advise the Methodist minister on the ways in which his sermon of the previous morning might have been improved. I'm sure his enthusiasm upon seeing her must have been somewhat restrained.

The second story isn't really about my grandfather either. My grandmother had an uncle who was a Methodist bishop, "the most tedious man on the planet," according to my grandfather's description. He extended that tidbit of commentary one day by adding, "Marrying and burying ~ that's all they're good for."

The only story with any religious bent that directly portrays my grandfather himself came from a friend who is a nun. My family was in the grain business and the nuns, whose convent lies twenty minutes from town, have a farm, so my grandfather frequently spent time with them, discussing beans and corn and equipment and weather. As the decades passed, my grandparents and the sisters discovered mutual interests in music, art, politics, and nature, and became fast friends. The story in question probably comes from about 1970; my grandfather would have been about sixty-five years old and Sister A about forty. She told me some time ago that they were visiting together one afternoon and he mentioned that he would like to go into the sanctuary.

"So we did," she said. "And I genuflected, and moved into the pew, and knelt down to pray. Your grandfather followed me and sat down on the bench. After a few moments, he said, "You really believe in all this, don't you?"

Bemused, she responded, "Yes, H. I do."

"Sometimes," he said, "I wish I could."

Sister A was the first person I consulted about selling my land to help pay for seminary. Although there had never been the tiniest thread of obligation attached to the gift, I still felt uneasy. Certainly my grandfather's intention could not have been less related to the reality unfolding before me, and to sell under these circumstances and in this market is hardly a savvy economic move of which he would approve, regardless of purpose.

"Your grandfather," said Sister A, "would have wanted you to exercise complete freedom of choice in this situation, and he would be thrilled to have been able to help." And then her eyes began to dance and she began to chuckle. "If only he were alive so that I could see the look on his face at this turn of events!"

Last week-end I was down in the southern part of the state visiting family. I walked the creek , which at the moment is a dry bed of rocks, not a run in any way, shape, or form. I flipped over the fossilized remains of brachiopods and coral, hoping for a trilobite. (We have never found even one in that creekbed, although a massive trove of them lies on a remote farm a few miles away, but I am optimistic, too.) I listened to the chickadees and a distant catbird, and looked over the building site above the creek, a perfect foundation for a thatched-roof cottage designed for hobbits. I hope that someone who will love the land purchases it, but I have relinquished control over all potentialities in that regard.

And then I stopped by the convent to see Sister A, who greeted me with open arms and the words, "So here comes the future minister!"

Yes, my life is brimming with intersections. Devout Catholic nun friends colluding with a grandfather whose own deeply reflective life of the spirit precluded allegiance to organized religion. Land marked by the creatures of the Paleozoic, and by the descendants of the Puritans of the seventeenth century and the German immigrants of the nineteenth who married each other and farmed there for generations. Ancestral people and places whose message echoes down the creek and through the woods and across the fields: Go! We all made you who you are, but you cannot stay rooted to this land and be the woman whom you are called to be. Gather what we have offered you, put it to use, and go.

Five wooded acres with a creek that usually runs through them. For sale.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Happy 20th, Lovely Daughter!

I actually woke up at 2:01 this morning. Apparently an inner clock was set to mark the end of my life as a mother of teenagers.

She's working in a law firm and planning a celebration trip to an amusement park for later this week with her best childhood friends.

Today she's celebrating by taking me to the last day of an Ansel Adams exhibition.

By this time next week, she'll be back in Oregon. She's got a fall semester job planning events for Japanese students and a spring semester in Prague ahead of her.

Who could possibly have imagined what lay ahead for that little 6-pound-7-ounce bundle nestled up next to me twenty years' worth of mornings ago?

(The image enlarges quite nicely with a click, if I do say so myself. I think the child has reached adulthood quite nicely as well!)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Intersections 1

I have been trying to decide what to do about blogging for the upcoming year. I thought about creating a new blog dedicated to my seminary/spiritual direction training life but, as some of my readers know, I have tried to maintain separate blogs before and failed rather dramatically. Way too ADD. I thought about going somewhat public, but for a myriad of reasons that seems to be a Very Bad Idea. I thought about what I might want to blog about with respect to my new ventures, and realized that I feel no compulsion to address via blogging the current divisions, political and theological, in my church, at least not beyond those occasional references that emerge naturally through my own experiences.

I thought about not blogging at all. Time is, after all, about to become a bigger issue for me than it has been of late. I could go cold turkey.

As I was considering my options, a longtime occasional reader from the AOL days left me a lovely comment, to the effect that reading the blog can be like a retreat at times. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe that's the focus. I suppose I will continue to ramble through my daily life in my entries, reduced in number through they might be, which means that all of the subjects listed in my sidebar will continue to show up from time to time. But the religious stuff? Maybe more reflection and less minutiae? Or not? The spiritual does have a way of making its appearance through the trivial.

I guess we will have to see. What I have concluded for the time being is to try to set the more focused "new life" entries aside, however haphazardly they appear, into a series entitled Intersections, a word which reflects the locus of my life right now. There is a place about half a mile from our home where five streets come together in one massive intersection, necessitating five different crosswalks and a confusing computerized system of signals for cars and pedestrians. I am feeling a bit as if I am standing in the middle of the entire conglomeration of pavement, lights, cars, and people. Peacefully. And hopefully. (The gelateria is, after all, right there.)

So ~ Intersections it is.

The photo marking the series is from Iona.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spiritual Direction: Today's Perspective

The participants on the retreat from which I returned last week came from as far west as Vancover, as far east as Nova Scotia, as far south as Virginia. Most of us looked pretty commonplace and, with the exception of a couple of large crosses dangling from necks, evinced no visible sign of a particular faith or approach thereto. The priests wore vestments when celebrating mass and were otherwise indistinguishable from the rest of us in their khakis and sandals and casual shirts.

So what is spiritual direction and why are all these people of ordinary appearance so committed to it?

The usual definitions of spiritual direction have to do with "helping you to notice God at work in your life" or "helping you with your prayer." It sounds simple enough, and probably unnecessary ~ until you start to think about the other things you do and the level at which you practice them.

The closest analogy for me would be photography. Just as most people pray in some capacity, most people with the technology available to them take photographs. Most of those images are snapshots of family, friends, and vacation scenery, and consist of a subject plopped into the middle of the lens and photographed at a manufacturer-determined and preset level of speed and lighting. The low level of expertise does not preclude the attachment of significant meaning to the photographs; in fact, that image of a slightly-out-of-focus and badly backlit Grandma laughing on the last beach vacation may have far more impact on her family than the professional portrait that sits on the piano. But no one would submit it to a gallery for its consideration.

At the other end of the spectrum are the pros. They know all about lenses and illumination, their houses and workrooms are littered with equipment, and some of them are even paid for their work. They see the world differently than the rest of us do ~ constantly framing, lighting, assessing. They spend hours researching the habits of their subjects, whether those subjects be antelopes or Presidents or the changing colors of the mountains. Their entire lives, interior and exterior, are formed by their passion for creating images as an expression of their lives and ours.

And then there are those of us in the middle. We know a little about the technology, but we have to ask the most basic of questions at each step on the way. We have been known to follow famous photographers down woodland trails, trying to see as they see and once in awhile rallying up the courage to ask them a question or two. As we learn, we do begin to see the world differently than we used to: we notice light and color, we watch where people (and other subjects) place themselves, we notice seemingly unrelated visual connections and relationships. We do not necessarily possess the skill to reflect what we see, at least not on any regular basis, but we do see more textures than we once did. And we are able to do that, most of us, not out of any intuitive brilliance or untutored skill. We are able to do it because other people have helped us learn.

I think that pretty much everything I've just written applies to spirituality as well as photography. (Go back and re-read it and see whether you agree.) And I think that a pretty good working definition for spirituality would be that it is the way in which we encounter God ~ which, in the parlance to which I am becoming accustomed, means prayer. And prayer means an attentiveness to God in all things, so that our listening and our doing and our being all have the potential to become our prayer.

With prayer, I am in the middle once again, just as I am as a photographer. I'm not sure how it happened, but at some long and gradual point in my life, the prayer I heard and repeated in church and in private became a springboard for questions about the Being to whom we were praying, and what exactly it was that we thought we were doing, and what the reverberations might be, and what other means of prayer we might want to explore, and who each of us is in relation to the God we seek or don't seek. And guess what? I needed help. Lots of it.

There is a long history of spiritual direction in the Christian church. A lot of people are surprised to discover the long history of spirituality itself in the Christian church (which is a little bizarre, when you think about it, given that spirituality is about encountering God and church is about ~ what? something else?). My director, who has just moved away, suggested that I read a little Thomas Merton book on direction as I looked for someone new, and I was intrigued to discover that the concept of spiritual drection in Christianity developed in the early centuries of the church among the desert fathers and mothers. It was presumed that the pastoral needs of the people in the churches would be attended to by their priests and bishops. However, once a few hardy souls moved away from the community, it became apparent that a life in solitude could send one off the deep end with surprising ease, and that assistance in staying on track was of benefit. It's not so different today, although a life of prayer in the deserts of northern Africa and the Mideast is for most of us replaced by a life of prayer in the spiritual desert of (post) modern life. The challenging of staying on track has not faded.

What happens in spiritual direction? You talk, a director (or guide, or companion, or whatever you want to call him or her) listens and occasionally nudges, and the Holy Spirit works. It's not therapy, although the mysterious process of human relationship upon which therapy is founded is also at work and, of course, the Big Issues of your life have a way of emerging. It's not devoted to unraveling your past or plotting your future, although both come up as they bear on your attempt to understand and respond to God's disclosure to you in the present. It can be really difficult and serious, and it can be really difficult and humorous. And sometimes it's actually easy.

Spiritual direction (much like a polished photograph) is ultimately about discernment and its consequences. We tend to think of discernment in prayer as a process for the big things in life: Should I marry this person? Go to law school or go to work for Pixar? Pursue social justice or a 401(k)? Turn my life upside down and go to seminary or retain my employment and secure salary? (Yes, go ahead and laugh.) But discernment is a means for seeing God in all things, not just the big ones, and engaging in the process of spiritual direction nurtures that capacity in us. If you are called into the desert of prayer, it's good to have company.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What Were You Doing Up There? (Retreat Part 4)

Some retreat clarification, in response to various questions people have asked me:

Yes, you talk to your director! Each day your director suggests a passage of Scripture for you to reflect on, and then the next day you talk it over with her or him. A few sentences can lead you on countless winding paths and even, sometimes, to a genuine inner stillness and alertness to the Spirit of God.

No, you don't have to do another single thing. One of my friends asked about the work of preparing meals together -- nope. The delicious meals were prepared and beautifully presented by the kitchen staff -- which also works in silence, so as not to disturb the retreatants in the dining room.

I thought longingly of my computer and its internet access maybe three times in eight days.

I found the silence easy and the eight days short. I'm sure one's mileage varies, and I wouldn't predict even my own future experience based upon this recent one. But I have a pretty well-established practice of lengthy daily silence for listening for God, which itself has an effect on the prayer going on inside my head or through my activities even when I am chattering away or otherwise engaged during the rest of the day. So, this time at least, the silence went well for me.

I'll try to write a little about spiritual direction tomorrow. It's been such a significant part of my life for the past two years that I tend to forget how weird the entire concept sounds. But yes, I am aware that when you use words like "spirituality" or "direction" in most of the contexts I inhabit, people start thinking New Age or Eastern tradition or medieval or rigidity of discipline.

For now let's just leave it at this: you will never have to worry about mistaking me for Mother Teresa.

Enjoy the sunrise!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Retreat (Part 3) Colors and Light

Stuart Gordon writes a fine blog entitled
Colors and Light ; I highly recommend his work to you. And since that phrase occured to me many times as I wandered the retreat house grounds last week, I offer here my own version of Guelph color and light in grays and browns.

Today I also want to recommend the two Jesuit prayer sites I frequent:


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Retreat (Part 2): Early Morning to Early Evening

I read one book, off and on, while I was on retreat: Walking in the Spirit: A Reflection on Jeronimo Nadal's Phrase "Contemplative Likewise in Action" by Joseph F. Conwell, S.J. It's a combination history of the early Jesuits, biography of Jerome Nadal (who, while not one of the earliest of the Society, was a significant member and prolific writer in the years immediately preceeding and following the death of Ignatius) and treatise on prayer. I copied several sections into my journal, including the following:

"To insist on a Trinitarian orientation to prayer does not set limits on prayer but gives it a field of play broader than all creation. At the same time, fully Trinitarian prayer plants one's feet squarely on the earth. If a [person] grasps a Trinity-pervaded universe, then that grasp generates not merely a vision, a wonderment, an overwhelming gasp at the beauty and grandeur of it all; it initiates an immensely practical surging forward to meet and tangle with a world in revolt against that beauty and grandeur and love. Love born out of love moves to love."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Does This Explain Anything?

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Usually I come out as pretty balanced on the introvert/extrovert scale. In fact, people often seem surprised to discover that I have an ounce of introvert in me.

Do you think this is a function of an eight-day silent retreat?

(Oh, and the Geena? An oft-used internet ID of mine, left over from when a friend and I temporarily called ourselves Geena and Susan (as in Thelma and Louise). I was tired of always being the brunette academic, so I decided that, online at least, I could look like Geena Davis. Guess that's the dreamer/visionary me!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Eight Days on Retreat (Part 1)

Loyola House occupies 600 acres of farmland and orchard in southern Ontario, and for eight days about forty of us kept almost complete silence there (yes! ~ eating in silence, walking in silence, swimming in silence), moving about as we wished except for the 45 minutes spent with a spiritual director each morning.

I settled into a routine almost immediately: walking the labyrinth for about an hour before or after breakfast; meeting with my director and going to the liturgy in the late morning; a very l-o-n-g walk most afternoons along the river that meanders far through the property, which provided almost complete solitude and opportunites to play out in the middle of sparkling shallow water; a before-dinner swim in the most welcome pool; an evening walk through fields or woods; and a late evening turn around the labyrinth again. The meals were beyond delicious; the chapel, dining room, and living room were all elegant in their simplicity and beautiful use of woodworking craftsmanship; the atmosphere was Jesuit and ecumenical; and the mosquitos were in abundance.

My retreat was a difficult one. I had read that sometimes retreats are full of light and ease, and sometimes they challenge and disturb. Now that I look at some of the images I brought back with me, I see both light and darkness in abundance. The Christian journey exactly.