“Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control, let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper a surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy's flame. Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust.”
The air shifts as we reach the winding gravel road. Our voices still, and we visually feast on the richness of the land. We're here... and its begun to feel like "we're home." We're a mere 45 minutes from our homes, but yet it seems like a distant place and time.
We've never been to Carmel of Mary, in May.
As Roxane pulls into the driveway near the guest house, we simultaneously breathe deep, delighted by the fragrance of lilacs and giggle as our actions mirror each other. We know what awaits us... we know.
Its early evening and as Roxane busies with some work, I step out of the house. Sensing the sun lowering I simply stroll around the grounds. With the magnitude of the quiet, and the pure absence of any responsibility you'd think I'd have some profound thoughts. But its like my head heard the word, retreat, and my brain said "sure, why don't we?"
So I simply allow myself to soak in every little nuance of light, and the smell of earthiness, and feel the energy of the wind, and renewal that comes with the season of spring.
And I start to wonder about the horse? Will she be waiting in the field? And I haven't seen the guinea hens in a long time, have they survived this harsh environment so different from that of their native land?
As the sun lowers I merely work at opening my heart to whatever story may unfold.
The sun shines bright the next morning as we prepare for mass at 7. It's Pentecost Sunday, and we'll meeting with Mother Madonna later this afternoon.
As we leave the chapel, my first surprise visitor saunters off in the distance. Roxane and I hear the unusual squawking before we even see her. She seems alone. She flies up on the rail of our porch, then hastily retreats as we draw near.
Soon enough we're heading back over to the monastery for lunch.
The sisters always prepare home made, delicious meals that we fondly look forward to. Shortly after morning mass, the bell rings, beckoning us to come. The meals await on a turnstile which we gather and bring to the dining table, where Roxane and I dine alone. And on this day? A slice of cake with a lit candle in celebration of the Pentecost- or the church's birthday.
Its after lunch that I slip outside into the warmth of the sunshine.
It isn't long and I see her. She is who I've longed to see... Ann's words echoing in my mind...
"Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper a surprised thanks."
She's on bended knee, and doesn't get up the whole time I walk around the outside of the fenced pasture, speaking to her. Her ears perk up but still she doesn't move. So I whisper my thanks as I pray she is ok. Several times I make a trip out to visit. She is always laying down near the same spot. I have no one to ask.
I saunter off to discover what new sights I can uncover.
I notice such small details. Like how everything seems to be leaning and bending, creating paths that invite you to walk along.
I go and visit Mary.
As I walk all the way around her, I see it. Mary's hand. Open, outstretched. Ann's words echoing in my head again...
"...Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. "
I walk on... in and about the big trees lining the road. I possibly walk by it at first, but then I see it just below the arching tree branches.
The tulip is bending and leaning too... just the one. No other tulips in sight.
I'm near the edge of the grounds now, near the road. I'm watching the willow tree branches dancing in the wind.
“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” Bruce Lee
I circle back, my steps reaching into the thousands today, and yet physically I feel strong. I'm emptying, and filling at the same time.
I go all the way back to the pasture behind the house. Checking on her one last time. She's up! She is eating, and I quickly offer thanks for her well-being.
Later in the afternoon, Roxane and I go to meet with Mother Madonna. I've written a note with some prayer requests to leave with the sisters. I tuck a donation inside, knowing the sister's live off of the giving of the community. With the lessons of "bending and leaning," freshly seeded in my mind.
"And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust.”
As the light shines through the dark clouds, the sunbeams stream down over the top of the bell tower. It's time to leave and I'm already longing to return.