Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Missing Mepkin

This time of year is when I'd often take a trip to Mepkin Abbey.  I first went in 2004, a week-end that contained both Halloween, which came on a Sunday, which was Reformation Sunday that year and All Saints Day on that Monday that we left.  I so fell in love that we committed to coming back the following year.

The next year was 2005, and our airport was shut down because of hurricane Wilma, which meant I couldn't join my friends at the abbey.  I didn't get back to Mepkin until 2006, and again, I loved it.  In 2007, we planned to go MLK week-end, but then we couldn't.  I went back in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  So, I've been away from Mepkin more than I've actually made the pilgrimage in the autumn.

Still there's something about the shift from summer to fall that makes me yearn for Mepkin Abbey.  This year, for a variety of reasons, I'll meet my friends there in late January.  Last year, we met there the first week-end of February, and that worked well.  If we spend the next day making our pilgrimage in the winter, will my yearnings shift?

Or is it something about the change of light that signals a change of scenery?  Some days I miss Mepkin; other days I miss the mountains, especially as people post their pictures of trips to wineries and blazing foliage.  Some autumnal days find me missing my undergraduate and grad school days--the campus coming back to life, the start of classes, the blazing heat that in a few weeks would turn to a hint of crispness as the first cold fronts blew through.

But what I'm missing most is a recalibration that comes from a spiritual trip.  I remember walking barefoot in the labyrinth on a beautiful November morning (see this blog post).  Before I was a blogger and a photographer, I spent a lot of time noticing how the sanctuary changed.  I still haven't figured out the changing of the floral elements.  I delighted in the huge urn that contained the kind of fake autumn leaves you'd pick up at a craft store, but I've also loved the flowers that clearly came from the gardens.  I've learned a lot from how the monks use art to help celebrate their feast days.

I've also loved how different rhythms, more sacred ones, get into my head, and how it only takes about 36 hours.  How I wish I could duplicate that at home.  I read my prayer book alone, but it's not the same as chanting the Psalms.  And yes, I could try chanting on my own.  So far, I haven't.

Anyone who has read this blog much at all realizes how much these trips have changed me in ways both profound and minute.  I've been reminded of how satisfying a simple meal of a soup and sandwich can be.  I've discovered that even monks feel rushed--we're all in this human condition together.  I've had great writing come together at Mepkin.  I always leave with more ideas than I can use.  I've felt the presence of God--and because I took the time to drop out of my regular life.  That experience helps me feel the presence of God back home too.

Do I need to leave to accomplish those things?  This autumn has been an experiment.  I haven't travelled with my husband on his trips to board meetings, which usually has meant at least one trip to Lutheridge.  I didn't make it to the retreat to plan the Create in Me retreat.  My Mepkin trip will be postponed until early February.

And yes, I feel a bit depleted.  I'm often feeling depleted in a different way once I've done all that travelling.  But I'm not feeling spiritually drained the way that I do right now.  Part of that depletion has to do with working on church building issues.  Part of that has to do with ugliness at work.  Part of my depletion is just the tiredness that comes after the euphoria of moving to a new house and selling the old one--nice problems to have, but wearying just the same.

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving, where I will get back to Lutheridge and have some family time.  I'm looking forward to Advent, a liturgical time which recharges me.  I'm ready to regroup.

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