Hyperactive, mind in overdrive, too much asthma drug corticosteroid racing in my system: it’s not a promising start to a silent week! Bimbling around Arlington court deliberately paying attention: water soaked, overblown nasturtians, rush and deep voiced tumble of waters in the “wilderness”, brown, rust, bronze, orange stained and turning leaves,existing and falling. I want to “hear” God; adjust my expectations to appreciate his creation: he shows up, I find, in the ordinary, everyday, when I pay enough attention. Actually I’m grumpy – I feel critical of the National Trust whose parking meters hit non members- like me. Remind myself, crossly, that I have enough…..
Evening is a cattle market: 27 guests on “retreat”, 7 directors, we wait to be allocated. It’s after supper, we meet 8.45pm for a quick “who are you, what do you want out of this” Faith is believing I’m known well enough, loved enough to have someone I can relate to. Mine looks thoughtful, she’s a vicar, very Anglican! Hmmmm.
I’m impressed: gentleness – I’m kicked outside all week to walk, to notice, to delight in and with God over his creation. It’s enough apparently, to come here – Be still, know God. Silence begins.
Silence turns up the volume on your senses. Sharp shower needles on my collarbones, mint tang sweet scent showergel. I wonder at the bubblegum icecream blue of the “travel toothpaste” – I always thought bubblegum was pink..does every other person think such random thoughts. The wonder that is sweet chestnut spiky casing and the three little chestnuts, curled inside, wind in my ears and the rain mist drifting over the wood and valley. I attempt to draw the colours of nuts, stones, shells: frustrating, intimidating, so many colours, so much artistry.
My director and I agree scripture can feel like “all you can eat chinese buffet” we agree I am best with a few passages to savour. It’s like having a song on repeat – I should know – I find I have brought the gym mix on the ipod – how very not suitable!!! (actually it’s fun and feels subversive)
Afternoons are a beach or a bask on a rock with cloud watching. Time – lots of it – is a precious thing that I can waste here without too much guilt. I draw a “fire breathing dragon” as the kitchen staff seem to have turned up the spice. Poor stomach! To say I draw is a big step for me, a new thing, creativity is drawn out of me in little threads that I don’t notice. It takes me 24 hours to muster the courage to trace beachcombing’s buzzard wing feather. Awe and respect at it’s sweep and solid power. God and I have a field day with “feather” type bible verses!!
Cows it seems not only have ginger eyelashes, they have furry fringed ginger ears. And owls love to hunt at 3am – each side of the valley. Haunting . I take a moonlit early morning walk and watch sun come up, tinting clouds with salmon, peach, rose, apricot, pink feathers and blowy banks of cloud.
Rebel is in my wiring. Icecream chocolate flakes turn up for tea. Stacked in blocks. My neighbour whispers “Jenga” and prods one out. I corpse. Not good, I exit the dining room feeling like a naughty schoolchild!! Far too serious for me. I think it is a highlight of a week of not being sure I like silent dinners…I hope the retreat police aren’t too active…..
I finish the week, with Jennie the directors’s blessing – sneaking off for an end of holiday “chocolate cream tea”: chocolate chip scone, nutella and clotted cream. Artery busting, rather too sweet but an experience this risk taker can’t resist. Keeping the week deliberately light worked for me. Enough work has been done on my “dark side of the force” – it’s definitely a time to play and delight.