Monastery Moments


We were all clothed in calf-length, thick robes—a hodge-podge mixture of men and women, the young and old filing slowly around in a languid manner. Distinctions disappeared in monochromatic moments of time. This was my own little monastery for the afternoon.
A perfumed scent lingered; flutes were faint in the background. Some guests had their eyes closed, others with their eyes wide open. There was a soft hush and a whisper of quiet with a faint hive-hum of conversation swirling around.
I found myself quietly contemplating the majestic pines rising outside the giant window. One’s eyes could follow them upward into the blue beyond. I rocked, back and forth, back and forth, coffee in hand, and book in my other hand. Something was missing, though, and things felt odd, off-kilter. My heart rate had slowed down; I rolled out the knots in my shoulders, relaxing into a deep breath. This is insanity I thought—all this calm and quiet.
My peripheral vision noticed drinks to mouths, fruits passed back and forth, four women, with laugh crinkles around their eyes, faces alight, turned toward one another.  Another two women, curled into rockers were near the fire, heads back against their chairs, hands gesturing, relaxed and observant. A man served a woman drinks; his steps were slow and meandering. A crossed-legged woman with a tall top knot of brown hair began to color, her art quickly taking shape.
Two young men were chatting, their feet crossed, their bodies on an incline.
I noticed a tall, slender woman, belly-swelled and ripe, being assisted down near the water by a bearded man wearing an eye-patch. Water was trickling, streaming, flowing, and steaming.  Sounds were alive, eyes open, people noticed, faces noticed, all showcased behind robe disguises. Our eyes, smiles, and voices met, beautifully on display. There was no status, no statements, no distractions.
I turned the page of my book, The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris, and was struck by the similarities between the Benedictine monks that Mrs. Norris wrote about, and my afternoon here. This alien simplistic landscape was born through conversation, nature, and water; there was no media here, no outside voices, no hurry. We were just us, just being, all here, at the same level, all at the vulnerable place of being ourselves. This gifted afternoon at a spa became so much more. It became a place of contemplation and peace, with nothing to hide behind. It was raw, stripped back, down to the bones, but it was beautiful. The juxtaposition between my book and environment, this realization of what shutting out the harried world, and reaching out to others, noticing nature, can really do. Real relationship is scary and no, it isn’t safe, but it’s real humanity, real life right in front of me.

7 thoughts on “Monastery Moments

  1. Beautiful writing, beautiful imagery.

    As a less beautiful aside, as a teen I once went on a short term missions trip to Romania. We visited this beautiful, peaceful monastery somewhere near Bucharest in which my then youth leader (now father-in-law) wasn’t allowed to enter because his shorts were too short. We still haven’t let him live that one down!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! That is SO funny about your FIL. Wow. In the cathedrals, I know in Paris and some places in England, you were suppose to dress respectfully, which we did, but for the most part, hordes of tourists did not. 😦

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  2. This is beautiful, Amy. I am reminded of similar moments: stark and stunning in their simplicity. Moments when life and literature collide; friends, family and familiarity nestle comfortably alongside nature and time, just for a little while, stands still. Such moments are all too rare. It’s good to record them 🙂

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  3. Beautifully written-Amy, i think of this a lot . . .that “real” life is nature with very little man made fanfare. Even the music of reeds is a natural sound and the human voice, too. How did we get so far away from authenticity ? thank you for making me think. love Michele

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    1. That is a beautiful way of putting it, Michele. Increasingly sad to think about all the relationships with God, each other, and nature being lost. While I think individual people are beautiful and unique, individualism as a whole, as created a stark, unnatural, culture of rejecting relationship. I think it has made people hide the unique individual resting and dancing inside, because instead the are just trying to fit into the cookie cutter rat race/mold.

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