We are cradled close in your hands — and lavishly flung forth.
Rainer Marie Rilke/Anita Barrow & Joanna Marie Macy trs.
Book of Hours, II, 26
I'm on the train back from Gloucester, headed toward Boston and ultimately home. The week has been one of grace and of deep stillness. I was grateful for a group of fellow pilgrims into the silent lands who were themselves vessels of silence. Even the usual bustle of unpacking seemed barely to ruffle the waters.
We are now all lavishly flung forth back into the world. The train is filled with people from the local psychiatric outpatient program (or so I gather from the conversations). From one man in particular, carrying a battered tweed suitcase, comes a veritable torrent of words. The contrast between the cradled silence of the last 8 days, and these overlapping, free flowing, slightly too frantic conversations is almost too much to contemplate.
There is just the one car on this off-peak train, so perforce this is my community of the moment. They seem as welcoming as the one I left behind, if less still — several pace the train restlessly — admiring my backpack without envy, respecting my boundaries (no one has asked me for a smoke), greeting me as though I might be a new found friend.
Which begs the question, what do I look like after more than a week on retreat?
Addendum: I'm posting this via wi-fi on the train from Boston to Philly and perhaps have an inkling of an answer. With my back-pack, sweatshirt (reads Chemistry Chick spelled out using elements from the periodic table), bright green shirt and capris I look nothing like the people on riding the Acela. The line ahead of me is monochromatic. Everyone, and I mean without exception, is wearing some shade of black or grey, carrying briefcases and laptop bags. I blended in much better with the crowd on the last train!
Next question: are the people on this train any more sane than the people on the last?