And what does my heart tell me about my first grandchild, Violet Hope? My heart has a wealth of things to tell me about this one year-old, precious gift from God. When visiting my son and daughter-in-law this past Christmas, we all went to the San Diego Safari Park to see colored lights synchronized to Christmas music. There was a castle there with a moat in front and two pelicans swimming back and forth like crazy looking sentinels.
The night was dark as white, blue and purple lights flashed across the castle to Alan Jackson’s song, ‘Let It Be Christmas.’ I stood on a wooden bridge and held my sweet Violet as she watched the lights, smiling and clapping her hands. And just like that, from out of nowhere, my heart started to swell with a song that had no words. No words were needed. It was just love. Pure love. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of the many things I’m learning, unbidden and unasked, from this little life.
There are many treasures the heart can reveal if we take the time to listen.
Like most monasteries, there is a daily schedule of prayers at the rectory known as the Liturgy Of the Hours. The Liturgy Of the Hours is the official set of prayers "marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer". It consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns, readings and prayers.
The hours are:
3:30 am Vigils
6:30 am Lauds
12:00 pm Sext
5:30 pm Vespers
7:30 pm Compline
The visitor is free to go to all the prayer hours, some of the prayer hours, or none at all. I have gone to a few at Mount Savior Monastery in Elmira, NY. They are short and sweet. I have to say, I love hearing the brothers chant scripture.
Saturday morning I got up early, said hello to the chickens and billy goats on the property, and then hiked along the Greenway which follows the Genesee River. The Greenway is a half mile from Bethlehem house, if that. It’s a well kept, easy trail with some pretty views. I got back to my room around 10:30 and decided to visit the Abbey gift shop and stay for the noon prayer in the chapel. I bought some Monk coffee roasted by the brothers and some Monk biscotti baked by the brothers. I also picked up a book about Thomas Merton, called In the School Of Prophets.
The chapel was beautiful. There is something about Monastery chapels - a sense of mystery, a reverence, something ancient and good. Modern churches that I’ve been to (both Protestant and Catholic), don’t come near it. There seems to be little focus on contemplation and silence in most western churches.
The mystery is what draws me to the monastery. It provides a place to come apart from all the activity and noise of everyday life. It gives the opportunity to think and to be at a deeper level. There is something to being still, listening and inviting God’s presence.
Here’s a little update on my art studio. All the cosmetic work has been done. The easel and work table are in place. The first thing I wanted to hang on the wall was this artsy, little turtle clock.
I picked up this baby in Monterey, California. My daughter-in-law, Sarah, and I decided to go shopping. She took me to this quirky store that had crazy clocks hanging all over the place. Sarah ended up buying a cool, coffee cup clock, and when I saw this turtle; I knew I was not leaving the shop without it. I’ve always liked turtles.
Did you know that turtles symbolize peace? They are also symbols of the earth, groundedness and patience. Oh, and don’t forget, ancient wisdom. I could use a little of that. Heck, I could use groundedness and patience too.
I love my turtle clock. I love the colors and I love the fish pendulum. In this day and age, where most people check their phones for time, I enjoy the steady motion of a pendulum belonging to a stationary wall clock. Now, I’m hoping it will keep perfect time. But even if it doesn’t, it will stay where it is - a piece of art, symbolizing things that matter to me.
Ceiling, walls, chimney and floor are all painted! Now the fun begins - decorating!
The first thing I wanted to do was hide my washer and dryer. They had to stay in the room because there was no place else for them to go. So, I was able to cover them with a bamboo screen. Out of sight, out of mind!
I ordered a new art table. It has drawers, a place for brushes, a sliding side surface... it is the bomb! The only drawback was that it came unassembled. Fortunately, my husband, once again, helped me out!
I love my studio! It is such a great space! I've even started teaching art classes in it. I will add more little by little as I go along, but what a great way to start out the year! It's a dream come true!
I finally bit the bullet. I finally decided to turn my junk room into an art studio. I figured if not now, when?
When I say junk room, I mean junk room. However, it's a room with potential. It's a fairly good size and it has windows on three sides, which means light, and light is gold to an artist. The first thing to do was to clean it out. That took a full day.
My husband generously offered to paint the ceiling while I chose the paint and primer to cover the walls. Then, I spent a day cutting the paint into the walls and ceiling. Coming soon - Building An Art Studio Part 2 - the next stage in renovation!
There are places on this planet where the air between heaven and earth is very thin. I experienced it once at a church garden in Ireland. The second time was at Mount Savior Monastery in Elmira, NY. It's as though molecules of light have cleared out those of heaviness in the very atmosphere. You can feel it. I know I felt it when I traveled to Mount Savior at the end of March this past year. Winter had not released its grip and it was still bitterly cold. I was looking for some time alone where I could just "be."
There are two small cottages at the monastery which are rented to visitors looking for personal retreats. The monks, known as brothers, call them casa1 and casa2.I stayed in casa1. The cottage had everything a person would need - a kitchenette, bathroom, bedroom with single beds, and a small living room with a fireplace. There was an old radio with two channels, but no tv or any other form of entertainment. The bathroom towels had been washed so many times they were paper thin and scratchy. That was ok, though. John the Baptist dressed in camel hair and I bet that was scratchy too.
There is a big wooden barn on the premises, located in the sheep pasture. It's like any other barn except that it has a white cross on it. Nothing fancy. Just an acknowledgement of a man who was born in a barn and died on a cross. There is a hill you have to go over just before you arrive at Mount Savior. As I crested that hill, the first thing visible was the barn.
Even though it was freezing, I took time to walk around the grounds. There wasn't much too see in the dead of winter. But I had nothing I had to do and nowhere I had to be.
I continued exploring and almost missed a significant piece of art hidden in an unlikely place. I saw something attached to a cement shed of sorts. I couldn't make out what it was so I walked closer. It was simple wire and wood screwed into a concrete wall. No elaborate religion here. It was stark. A man on a cross. Obscure. Naked to the elements - wind, rain, snow. Wire wound to form a figure. The position was telling. Head down, knees bent. Gravity pulling, suffering bowing, weakness bending. Meaning stripped down.
The morning I left Mount Savior, I did a small ink drawing on watercolor paper. The subject was a scraggly pine tree behind a rock wall outside my casa. The drawing was simple. I left it on the table underneath the house key, and closed the door.
I thought I'd write a few thoughts on art, life and whatever else comes to mind.