Sunday, July 17, 2011
"I come home from the soaring
in which I lost myself.
I was song, and the refrain which is God
is still roaring in my ears.
Now I am still
no more words."
Rainer Marie Rilke The Book of a Monastic Life I, 50
After four full days of wading deeper and deeper into the practice of silence, I arrived at this retreat already clearly on retreat and my director gently suggested that I might forgo the talking dinner, and "carry on" -- which I did.
Until, that is, four days into my retreat proper and after eight days of virtually complete silence. I got up (long past the official breakfast) took my tea and prayer to the edge of the eastern cloister garden, where the only noise was of the small fountain and the birds who frequent its cool waters. I went to Mass and after a lunch of fruit and yogurt headed to prayer again. I came down the stairs, rounded the corner toward the chapel to nearly run into an grey-haired sister, who stopped me and inquired, "Are you afraid of bats?"
Taken aback by this seeming non sequitur, I was momentarily speechless, finally spitting out a respectfully quiet "Yes, Sister."
"Well, there's is a bat in the Holy Spirit chapel." Oh. My.
Bats on the floor in the middle of the day are not a good thing. It was the fourth of July, so staff were in short supply. The rector, however, was in his office. Recruited to the bat banishing project, I was issued a mop and we went off to do battle.
Bat duly dispatched and disposed of, I decided that a walk might be in order. Let's just say I needed to settle a bit more before sitting down to pray. Walking out to the far fields, I leaned against the fence to watch a vintage combine cutting straw. On it's next pass, it comes to a lurching halt and out pops the farmer to say hello. Silence??
Back to the house, by now hot, drenched in sweat and interiorly, at least, still disquieted. I was dreaming of a cold shower, a bag of ice for the knee that felt as if someone had stuffed a dish sponge inside, something very cold to drink and the quiet of the garden. Heading down the first floor hall, I run into (nearly literally) Urban Spiritual Director, here to start his own retreat that evening. Twice he wonders, are you keeping silence? Well, not that you would notice today.
Cooled off and once again settled (and quiet), I cautiously ventured forth in prayer again. Whew. No flying furry mammals, no farmers, no friends. I’m back...yes!
Or not. I walked that evening, down the hedgerow path. Halfway down, I startled an owl, who came plummeting through the tree above me. I screamed (like a girl, as my brothers would say).