So I went on a private retreat this weekend to a Benedictine Monastery. (It's only fitting now that I've decided to not join the church.) How refreshing to be in a spiritual community that was open and free, at least on the surface of things. Twelve round monks dressed in white hooded robes chanted and sang five times a day and I got to sit in and listen. A wonderful time to think and pray, read and write...
Here's a poem I wrote while I was there.
An Encounter While Reading Thomas Merton
He says that love depends on
believing we are loved and
contemplation is not for loners.
I turn the pages, underlined with pencil.
It's in the mid-80's, this bright May morning.
She plods up the hill, carrying something,
stops at my faded Adirondack chair
and shows me a large triangle of driftwood.
"It looks like a mobia strip," I say.
"Or the pelvis of a buffalo," she adds
and we laugh. It just floated up to her
from the river as she was standing on the bank.
She sits down on the ground next to me,
says she has needed this alone time.
She confesses that she has decided
to restart her medication and I say everyone
I know is on medication for something, including me.
And she says the wheels in her head just won't
stop churning and she judges herself so harshly
sometimes to the point of hatred. She lives in Brooklyn
and is four years married to a fireman, "a good man,"
who fought at the World Trade Center. She goes to
Al-Anon and has a two-year-old son named Adam.
I listen, weigh each word like Merton, then I tell
her my secrets which are no secrets at all,
but they hang in the air like pollen.
"Unseasonable weather," she says at last.
When she leaves, she thanks me for my kindness
and we hug. Then the gulf within me opens
and my mind turns round and round
like the tangled root she brought
up from the shore.