Continued excerpts from my journal reflecting on my retreat at New Melleray Abbey:
Later…Pine trees, snow, and a fat cat.
Meowing outside my window at the moment, as he was during Mass, breakfast, and generally the entire time from 6:30 am, is an enormous fat tiger cat. I think he used to getting fed, by either the monks or retreatants. He’s quite friendly, and I nicknamed him Elliot just as monk informed me that her name was Anna.
It seemed logical to walk around the Abbey to get my bearings. Outside the Guesthouse, which is connected directly to the chapel, a statue of the Virgin Mary stands in a small green common, surrounded by twelve what looks like miniature coffins or unfinished birdhouses mounted on poles. Upon closer inspection, I see these represent the Stations of the Cross, as each portray a scene from Christ’s Passion. Patches of snow crunched under my feet as I tramped across the green, bundled up in sweater and parka. I felt my cheeks go red with cold.
I walked down a dirt road that ran alongside the monk’s farming business. Small flakes of snow whirled around me as a gust of wind made me pull the parka’s hood tighter around my head. Traveling back, I walked past the Guesthouse to an area marked “Private Personnel Only.” Skirting around this area, I hiked through pine trees in a shaded woodland until turning back, not before startling a red hawk perched on a low lying branch.
Back in my cell, as monks typically call their room, the view is rather limited. The room is only 8 x 6, with a private shower attached. Two high windows overlook the green where the Virgin stands. A radiator keeps the room warm, though a draft lets in a chilly 40 degree breeze. The walls are a dull beige-painted cinderblock. My bed is a single-what else would fit?- creating just enough room for a desk and a small oak lounge chair.
As I sit in this chair and look out the window, hearing only the sound of the wind, I realize the need to slow my mind down. God has given me this opportunity not to rush past Him, so therefore let me take time with words, take time with images, sentences, phrases, and small things in my path. My jumbled thoughts have room to be laid on a long, plain, flat surface.