Sunday, August 5, 2012

Retreat in the Drought

The first day of my silent retreat I walked out into the blazing afternoon heat to see the labyrinth.  It was too hot to stay in the sun long enough to properly walk the labyrinth, so I stepped over the paths to enter directly into the center to ask God's will for me during this retreat.  Listening there, I heard, "Rest in me."  I went back to the guest house to rest.  By the time I had reached the shelter of the house I was overheated, so applied a cold, wet washcloth to my forehead, and began to rest.  I slept most of the first two days, going out only early in the mornings to walk the labyrinth and to paint.  You see that the sky and the ground of the flower and herb garden were bleached white by the bright sunlight.

The shadows were so deep that they were darker than the objects projecting the shade.  Here is an ancient and favorite tree casting its shadow by the dry creek.

Following daily morning prayer, Sister Marilyn led a spiritual exercise in which we each reached into a bag of pebbles inscribed with names of gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The first day I drew the gift of "change."  After a day of much sleep, prayer, painting, and healing, the next day I drew "faith."  I have to tell you that it is an amazing experience to walk the labyrinth in faith.  You do not know where it is leading you, but you follow it until you reach the center, the heart of the experience, the heart of yourself and of God, both together, and there you experience whatever God wants you to experience at that time and in that place.  And on the walk back out, you take with you whatever has been given you to know and remember.

The next day I was given the gift of "light."  Rested and renewed, I took a much longer walk that morning, and in the terrible heat and brilliant light I noticed intertwined among the dead grasses one plant that was continuing to thrive:  the buffalo gourd.

 I think that perhaps God is making me like the buffalo gourd.  It is a child of the Western Kansas prairie, sturdy and strong, and able to withstand the drought.  Its roots go deep down to where the water is.  It seems to have leaves of leather, resistant to every kind of attack.  It lifts beautiful golden flowers up toward the blazing light, and produces fruits that offer water and nourishment to sustain the lives of the animals that otherwise would perish in the heat and drought.  I pray this may be so.

Over the next two days I was able to spend time with Sr. Joan admiring and talking over the flowers and herbs in the garden.  Sr. Marilyn helped me open into conscious awareness the symbolism of the buffalo gourd.  Sr. Mary Ellen spoiled me silly with her many quietly loving kindnesses.  Sr. Jane's overflowing abundance of humor and wisdom warmed my heart, and Sr. Terry gave of her time to listen and share her considerable experience concerning some of my questions and difficulties with spiritual growth.

The ministry of the sisters of Heartland Farm gave me the shelter and protection I needed to experience intimate closeness with God in solitary silence as much as I knew how to assimilate, and ample space for my exploration of creative response, but also the freedom to participate in the shared companionship of the community as we each journey in our own way toward the heart of God.

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn,

    This is a beautiful blog entry both for the pictures and your reflection on your experiences during your retreat. Dave Z.