Sunday, February 05, 2012

Cracking the silence of the 30 days

John Predmore, SJ posted this morning about the end of the Long Retreat at Gloucester. He talks about the mix of emotions the retreatants have about the ending of the silence, and about the way in which the silence in the house subtly shifts.

I can remember sitting by the fire the final night of the silence, juggling journal and computer awkwardly in my lap as I undertook the last of the reflections my director had suggested. The pattern of movement about the house was noticeably different, there seemed to be more comings and goings, and a palpable sense of expectancy. As I finished my reflection, another retreatant came to sit by the fire. We sat in silence, until he rose and turned to say he was going for a cup of tea, might he bring me one? The silence broke, not with trumpets blaring, not with some profound insight, but with an offer of tea. He returned with a well sweetened cup of tea and we continued to sit, a word or two drifting in this liminal time between endings and beginnings.

The silence seemed to be cracking like an eggshell, not with a quick flick of the wrist that shatters a shell sending a burst of a raw egg into a bowl, but like an egg that has been well-tended in the nest, with the first fine cracks that appear as the chick inside begins its exit in earnest. We emerged from the silence still off balance, still damp and slightly bedraggled from the exertions of the weeks, our wings gingerly stretching, suprised to encounter so little resistance, moving with a newfound freedom.

Photo is of robin's egg (unhatched and sadly abandoned) on my breviary in my summer's hermitage.


  1. I read that post and thought of you. Today, as I took a long walk, I imagined myself on the 30 days. Then I thought... no,8. Maybe a weekend. OK, a day.

    I have to start somewhere...

  2. Go for it, Fran!

  3. Every journey starts with a single go for it, Fran! I started with a couple of days and the next thing you know I'm throwing a duffel in my Mini and headed north for a month....

  4. Oh Fran - me too!! I SO SO SO want to be in Gloucester for 30 days!! :)

    I strongly recommend the book: Listening Below The Noise by Anne D. LeClaire. She chronicles her journey into taking a silent day every other Monday.

    Wow. It is amazing. An amazing book! (And, it's on Kindle)

  5. Another wonderful post, Michelle.

    It brought back memories of the end of my first Long Retreat but, strangely, none of the second...

  6. So excited to learn about that book, Cindy. Going to start it on Kindle tonight.

  7. Cindy, that book is great, it's on my shelf, too!

    And thank you, Paul! Maybe in another decade or so I will make the Exercises again and see what happens the second time....