Oh my God, I’m here. I’m here at the big white abbey in the Kentucky hills, and I’m adjusting, I’m struggling, this first day. I am the fish out of water, to use one of the idioms my students hate. After the long drive, the roar of the highway, the bluegrass I had blaring on the radio…after my entire life on the noisy and crowded East Coast…my God, is it quiet here! And no one is talking…
Can I survive four whole days?
My room is simple and spare, a monk’s room, but cozy. It’s my nest, my own tiny hermitage, within the mother abbey. It’s actually attached to the chaplain’s office, and right off the library, which I like very much. I consider the library part of my own quarters, and mock-glare at anyone who comes to use it. The room itself is basic college-dorm style, circa 1960s. The bed is quite narrow and hard, and would not be conducive to illicit lovemaking. Of course that’s the way my thinking naturally goes. I just hope I can get some licit sleep in it. The closet is very nice and surprisingly roomy, as if the person who planned it anticipated a crazy woman from New Jersey who brought too many clothes and shoes and accessories. I have a little hallway, and a Spartan bath, just a shower and a toilet. I laid out my health and beauty aids along the marble sill, and they look quite ridiculous there. As if a monk would have a curling iron and exfoliating cream.
There are two good-sized windows, with a lovely view: Mine overlook a small sitting garden and patio, with multiple birds flitting about. Spring is well underway here. There are lilacs in bud; the redbuds in full frenzy. I’m looking forward to walking the grounds…maybe tomorrow. I sit down at my tiny desk, and read the ‘rules.’
Breakfast is at 7:00 am. Dinner is at 12:30 pm. Supper is at 6:00 pm. No lunch, no brunch, no midnight snacks. This is definitely not a cruise ship. Prayers are as followed: Vigils at 3:15 am; Lauds at 5:45am; Terce at 7:30 am; Sext is at 12:15 pm; None at 2:15 pm; Vespers at 5:30 pm; Compline at 7:30 pm. At 8 pm begins the ‘Great Monastic Silence’, which sounds absolutely terrifying to me, lasting until 8:00 am.
More rules: Be quiet! Keep yourself open to God. Allow others the space and silence they need to be open to God and receive those graces He may wish to give. Stay out of other people’s rooms! Be silent in designated areas (Like, almost everywhere). Try to use the ‘speaking’ dining room only once a day. Have a grace-filled retreat.
And so it begins…