So over the weekend I was at the Chant Retreat put on by the Center for Sacred Art. It was a beautiful and restful experience and I've spent the last 2 days trying to figure out how that 48 hour period fits in with the rest of my life. The theme for this retreat was the work of Thomas Merton, and we talked a lot about how his disciplined commitment to both contemplation and creativity influenced his faith, as well as the larger faith community that he was a part of. It's kind of funny, every year I seem to leave the retreat with an idea for a needlework project that I then don't really ever get very far with. This year, with Thomas as inspiration, I might.
Sunday afternoon we had a 3 1/2 hour period of silence. I really enjoy that part of the retreat - in years past, thinking about it has been a carrot that got me through the Christmas kerfuffle. This year I wasn't as stressed out by Christmas, so the period of silence didn't seem to be as big a contrast. But it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I started out with a hike up into the hills behind the retreat house. St Andrews Retreat House is right off the beach, and at that level it was very foggy and everything was still covered with frost. The higher I got, though, the fog cleared and it was sunny. I could see the tops of the Olympic mountains and got glimpses of the ocean through the trees. There were still patches of frost on the trail, wherever the sun hadn't hit, and I wished I'd had a camera because there were some cool moments between the sun and the frosty bare branches and crunchy grass.
After my hike, I tried to walk the labyrinth. I'm not a good labyrinth walker; I'm too goal-oriented. "When am I going to be done? How much farther? What am I supposed to be thinking about? Am I walking too fast? When's the revelation going to hit?" I thought I must look pretty funny, at least at first, marching along at a pace that wasn't a lot slower than when I was on the hiking trail. I think I slowed down a little, but didn't have an "aha!" moment of any kind before I was done. So I tried it again the next day, trying harder to stay focused on the moment, the right now, the breathing. And maybe my lesson is that slowing down and learning to walk a labyrinth - or engage in any contemplative prayer - is a process. Maybe I have to learn how to get through a labyrinth without needing to feel like I've accomplished something in order to accomplish something, if that makes sense. Maybe even "trying to figure out how that 48 hour period fits in with the rest of my life" is too much of a goal. Maybe I just need to let those ideas be, and they'll fit in wherever they need to.
And in the meantime, there's a blackwork Celtic cross that I might sketch out, and maybe even stitch. Will keep you posted. After all, once Our Lady of Fabio is finished, I'll need another big project. Although I called My Dear Sister yesterday to wish her a happy birthday, and it seems I mailed her Christmas Socks to the wrong address, so will need to try again. Fortunately I've already got a pair started.
[Add On - 2 hours later] Just went for the Modified Maple Leaf Death March walk (2+ miles up and down the hills of my neighborhood). When I was a little over 3/4 of the way through, I passed a man. He walked up to the corner of 94th just as I was passing it, and said, "Ho, Good Morning" when he saw me. He was a little rumpled, looked like a younger, shorter version of Bill Murray with shoulder length hair and better skin. He was carrying a black duffel bag of some kind and possibly a beer bottle (maybe root beer?). Anyway, I said good morning, and he said, "You're an exercise walker. I'm a get here to there walker". I laughed and responded that there was something to be said for both kinds. "No", he said, "only the get here to there kind. Otherwise there's no point". I laughed harder, kept walking, and thought, "Dood, you'd really hate the labyrinth, then."