(For the past several months, I’ve participated in a group organized by Oasis Ministries that meets for monthly silent retreat days. We meet one Saturday a month at an old farm turned retreat center near Elizabethown, PA.)
I arrive in the nick of time, lugging a bag of books, my purse
and a packed lunch. Inside the old farm
door I exchange greetings with a few and make my way to the bathroom. Then I throw back a quick cup of coffee – I’m
not fully awake yet – and head in to join the circle of silence.
After a period of silent prayer and some brief reflection,
the nine of us split off in different directions. I make a beeline for more coffee and then head
upstairs to a bedroom alone. I journal
briefly before doing what I know cannot be put off any longer. Tipping to my side, I curl up with an ugly
blanket on an even uglier couch and, in seconds, I drift off to sleep.
I wake to lunch time.
In the cold dining room, I eat around a long table with women who are mostly twenty to thirty years older than me.
I crunch red peppers and carrot sticks and crack my hard boiled egg too
loudly on the table before realizing I can crush it gently with my
fingers. I drink hot tea at lunch, a
follow-up to my hot coffee, because I’m cold and can’t seem to get warm.
After lunch I find a sunny spot by a window and pile out my
books and journals. I thumb through a Birds and Blooms magazine cutting
pictures and words that strike my eye with scissors I stole from my
three-year-old’s office. Then we gather
again at the circle, for more silence and sharing around our reading for the
During afternoon retreat time I head outside with more
coffee and sit briefly on a bench watching bees buzz happy among the
clover. Then, still cold, I remember the
black bed-liner in my husband’s old, red, pickup truck. The black bed draws the sun like a magnet and
climbing in I’m greeted by warmth and the smell of gasoline. I unpack again, books and journal, in the bed
of the truck, my back tucked into the corner.
I run inside one more time briefly for my sunglasses and trade my cup of
coffee for a plastic cup of water.
In the truck, I read a bit and try to write poems that wilt,
listless on the page. I eat the perfect
orange, slowly, beneath the blue sky of spring.
In all of this I wonder, what am I doing here? I’m deliberately unproductive on these days,
deliberately leaving behind the laptop, setting no firm expectation for the day. There’s prayer, yes, but most of the day
feels decidedly unremarkable, strikingly unholy.
There are no angel choirs, no visions from heaven. I do spy a pileated woodpecker outside the
whirled glass window at lunch, but if he’s meant to deliver a message from God,
I fail on the receiving end. It isn’t
until the closing of the day that I remember again a bit of reading, a quote
from Thomas Merton, “. . . all our salvation begins on the level of common and
natural and ordinary things.”
The word “all” is what gets me, sticks like taffy in my soul’s
I marvel at how unholy, how unremarkable these days apart
seem most months and, on the whole, they’re filled with “common and natural and
ordinary things.” This much I cannot
deny – food and rest, silence and small chatter, an ugly blanket, the warm black
bed of a pickup truck.
But Merton, sly fox, tips things up-side-down in one short
sentence. These things, he whispers,
Carrots and coffee and sliced red pepper, quiet moments
flipping pages soaked in sun, that orange, the smell of gasoline, the happy
bees drinking life one blossom at a time.
These things, he whispers, these.
It’s then, at the end of the day, that I accept again the
invitation to surrender to God’s backward ways of transformation. God’s proclivity for infusing the material
The door is
everywhere. All our salvation begins.
* * * *
I’m super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer’s retreat this summer at God’s Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia. Visit Andi’s website for more info!
Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.
What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?
That’s my proposal – that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. You’re invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder. Don’t worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right – you’re welcome to come as you are.
While you’re here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.