Thursday, October 15, 2009
Stillness... Subtleness... Patients
The woods of Southern Indiana moved deeper into their autumn turning this past week. It was a good time to run away for 36 hours with two friends of mine who, like me, and in spite of every reason to the contrary, decided it would be possible and necessary to step out of our lives together to get closer to our respective centers, get quiet, settle back and look up through the trees to some blue sky beyond, if only for a few hours. The intention was to retreat. We’d have two overnights and one long day in the forest, a cabin with the basic necessities, trails to walk and a large body of water near-enough by.
Our hurried, un- parallel lives moved us in disparate directions literally up to the moment I pulled up at C’s door and flung open the back of my van and said, “what can I load in for you”? L screeched up minutes later, we pushed in the last bag, and didn’t let out a collective sigh, until we passed the city limits heading south.
Our one-room rustic cabin, with an unprouncable Welsh name, is owned by the gentleman, B, an exuberant host whose wide-flung arms exclaimed the grandeur of the world he’d carved out of the Orange County wilderness and filled that space with gusto. His voice boomed a husky tenor with an accent indicating time spent for at least SOME part of his life in the big city…Chicago? New York? Boston? When we met him in his driveway, he’d just been hiking “St. Benedict’s Journey”, a ½ mile trail he’d hacked down to his little piece of big lake water which, we found out shortly, we’d need to DRIVE about 10 minutes to in order to walk .
Within the first moments of meeting him, we gathered that Mr. B is a Contemplative Businessman, who resonates especially with Celtic Spirituality. The spirit of St Benedict's Rule, summed up in the motto: pax ("peace") and the traditional ora et labora ("pray and work"), was evident everywhere we turned. Like one of the several historical Saint Benedicts, our Mr. B had labored over his vision. He’d built bridges and pathways, benches and ballfields and posted signs everywhere to point the way. Between the signs to “Brigadoon”, Ty’tWen (?), the footpath and all the orange or pink plastic tape marking the short distances between trees from here to there, we were certain not to become lost in the yellow woods. Someone, we think we know who, had worked hard to point the way and invoke for us the spirit and names for “the all that is” in nature.
Turns out, we were never lost or never really alone so the idea of the retreat morphed gently for us in to a communal experience of stepping away together, and occasionally bumping into Mr. B. We three friends managed to magically show up with offerings for the group…food, drink, and open ears, yoga, music, major Girl Scout competencies all around. And for one day, we allowed time to pass without paying a bit of attention to time, easily following our inclinations for solitude, rest, talk, music. We each derived our own meanings and nourishment from our experience in retreat.
But the best was this:
As we walked St. Benedict’s Journey together we passed an abundance of Mr. B’s orange ribbon-marked trees, and every 300 yards or so, a sign posting a different word for contemplation: Stillness…Subtlety…Harmony…Peace…as we passed one of the last signs, we stopped to laugh and HAD to think : Patients, it read.
Beth Lodge-Rigal, for the Poplar Grove Muse