Thursday, July 08, 2010

Pools of silence

It was 106oF (314 K for those of you who prefer SI units — you know who you are) when I left home Tuesday to drive up to see Patient Spiritual Director. My appointment wasn't until the next day but I was in deep need of a time out — before someone made me use my crabby mommy powers for evil, not good.

I was searching for a place where no one would pop out the door, flip on the porch light and ask my advice about a stuck mail a queue in the midst of my nightly Examen, or arrive in my study at noon to inquire about dinner (and to be clear, the discussion was about the meal to be eaten some 7 hours in the future and was prefaced by the acknowledgement that I'd asked not to be disturbed except for emergencies).1

There is no air conditioning here, or very little. The basement chapel is cool, and the little first floor library where I am typing this, but certainly not my room or the main chapel or the balcony or the dining room! I spent my first prayer period floating in the gloriously cool, blue, silent, oh so silent pool. I alternately ghosted from one end to the other and just floated. Arms out wide, surrendering to the clear waters, I made no effort to stay afloat, though float I did. It was a deeply embodied experience of Ps 31:6 (Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, LORD, faithful God..).

The heat inside the old building wasn't as awful as you might imagine and I had somewhat the same sense of surrender as I walked back. Supported by the thick muffling air, I floated along through the dim corridors, neither hot nor cold.

In the end it was the little parlor with the computer that did me in. (That should teach me to plug in while I'm trying to unplug?) The window was open a mere crack, while the computer and printer merrily churned out BTUs and the fan only runs on when you flip on the light. I did what I came to do. I lingered not, and ultimately retreated to the artificial cool of the first floor library.

My room alas, was like a oven. I thought about sleeping outside.3 I thought about sleeping in the basement crypt.4 I thought about sleeping in the pool.5 I thought a lot about sleeping, I just didn't do much of it.

In the end, the prayer soaked out most of the kinks, and I floated, sleepless, but not discontent in the immense pool of silence that shimmered in the heat on the hill.


1. Emergency was explicitly defined as any situation in which someone is bleeding profusely or other any situation that engenders a similar level of panic2 in the victim or rescuer. (Yes, Math Man asked for a definitition.)
2. Not knowing what, if anything, has been planned for dinner is clearly an emergency under the rubric described in note 1. At least if you are a 14 year old who has grown a 1/2 inch in the last three weeks.
3. Then I thought about the fox I saw earlier this summer.
4. Would someone think I'd fainted in front of the altar? (No tabernacle here, just an altar…)
5. Would the novitiate security find me and kick me out? Would I drown? Would it be crowded with other desperately hot retreatants?
6. Of course there must be endnotes, I'm an academic, not a mystic!


  1. You don't think there are academic mystics? Or mystical academics? Sleeping on inflatable rafts in pools?

  2. A friend once called me a practical mystic -- and perhaps only a mystic might have contemplated sleeping afloat in the pool. :)

  3. Wernersville in this heat, ahhhh nice to be less covetous of your time there for once.

  4. though going back to work wasn't much better ;')

  5. This cracked me up, and I totally saw you in this article...and Chris. Silly boys. I'm glad you were able to retreat a bit.

  6. Stratoz - it sounds like school was equally steamy! And I least I didn't have to cook :)

    Marta -- it was so Chris indeed! Patient Spiritual Director (who also knows Chris) got a laugh out of it, too.

  7. I'm headed to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit July 23-29 ... one retreat on Christian Mystics, and one on Spirituality After 50 (I imagine the monks getting a bit of a kick out of that one!).

    There is, of course, no air conditioning. I was ignoring that aspect.

    Now, I will go forth with this blog and know that I can float in the heat... that sounds like a good way to manage.

    I'm also going to take my own fan.


  8. LOL, particularly the meal "emergency."

  9. Cindy - take an insulated bottle for cold water at night and a hot water bottle to fill with ice and water. Amazing on the back of the neck in that sort of heat!!

    Sabrina -- and I thought the every two hour feedings were tough when they were infants! At least then I could feed them and read, not have to grocery shop and get in front of a stove!!!