Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mepkin Sojourn in Brief

I am back from Mepkin Abbey--let me capture some thoughts before I hurl myself back into the world of work:

--Some years, the drive doesn't seem too bad.  Not this year--the miles seemed long and endless.

--Some years, the landscape has more color.  This year, the winter has been tougher, leaving not much color to be found.  I only saw one patch of pansies at the Abbey.  One year, the azaleas were still blooming.  On my last day there, I did see a jonquil, which cheered me.

--The weather was very strange--it didn't get above 34 degrees on Friday, but by Sunday, it was in the 70's.  And as I drove south yesterday, the weather forecast included ice, snow, and freezing rain--it made me want to speed up, even though I was in no immediate danger.

--The liturgy is more austere, which one might expect at Lent.  But did the monks sing the hymns more slowly on purpose, or was the organist (who wasn't there last year) one of the less-sprightly types who would slow every hymn down?

--We wondered if the monks might have a more austere Lenten diet, but it seemed the same.  We had dessert twice on Sunday, for example.  And they have a non-vegetarian option to eat each day.

--I took my laptop, but never plugged it in. 

--That's not to say I did no work.  I did read through my memoir.  It holds together well.  I was worried it might repeat the same ideas over and over, but it did not.  And I had worried that even the longest essays would seem too short, but they didn't.

--I devoured two books:  Gail Godwin's Publishing:  A Writer's Memoir and Meghan Daum's The Unspeakable, perhaps not the best book to be reading as I'm working on my own nonfiction.  Daum is an amazing writer.  Godwin is too, but her book didn't tell me a lot I didn't already know.  Still, it was pleasant, like visiting an old friend.

--I'd have been much more interested in Godwin's memoir if it had included more about her religious life.

--We walked the grounds a lot.  I saw a beautiful sunset over the river.  In all the years I've been going to Mepkin, I've never made it to the river to see the sun set.

--The moon was also breathtaking.  A tiny sliver of waxing moon.  And the first night, the stars were brilliant--the rest of the time, clouds obscured the view.

--The monastery has a dog!  She wandered in as a puppy, and apparently, it was obvious that she didn't have owners who would miss her.  So, she gets to stay.  I shall write a poem about how the joys of being the monastery dog are abundant recompense for all that she won't experience in suburbia.

--Every time I saw her running across the grounds, I smiled.  And she always seemed happy to see us.  We left the last service at the end of the day, Compline, where the Abbot sprinkles us each with water from the baptismal font.  I feel so complete.  But this year, the dog waited outside with a wagging tail--twice blessed!

--Two friends from my community college days make the retreat with me.  It's great to catch up. 

--One friend had just finished organizing a dissertation retreat for the Writing Center at the university where she works.  Perhaps hearing about the retreat explains my dream that I found out I was pregnant and my first reaction was to say, "I better get my dissertation done by the end of summer."

--My friend has said the project I need to work on getting to publication is a collection of photo essays that I've been creating since last year's trip (here's an example).  I think I still need some additional material, but her passion for this project is something I want to remember.

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