Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back from Retreat, Plunging into Regular Life (and a Poetry Reading!)

Today is my long day at work, so I'll wait for a different day to write a meditative essay about Mepkin Abbey. I had a successful writer's retreat. On the 10 hour drive up to Mepkin Abbey, I figured out which poems I'll be reading at Broward College on Tuesday, November 17--if you're in the South Florida area, come join us! I'll be reading with two other poets. The reading starts at 7:30 in the Southern Breezes Cafe of Broward College (the South campus, 7200 Pines Boulevard in Pembroke Pines). It's hard for me to realize that we're really this far along into November, so it was good to have time to think about that poetry reading.

I got to Mepkin Abbey before my friends, so I just sat for awhile on the porch. I reveled in the fact that I heard no traffic noise, aside from the occasional car. I listened to birds and the breeze. It was delightful.

One of my friends asked me if I couldn't do that in my own backyard. No, I really can't. If I sit in my backyard, I hear the heavy construction vehicles that are building an elementary school. I hear non-stop traffic noise and thumping car stereos. I hear a variety of neighbors, some of whom have moved their stereos and televisions into the yard. It is never quiet enough to hear the breeze.

I took several folders of poetry--literal folders of poems on paper, not computer files. I figured out the order of several manuscripts I've been wanting to create: two chapbooks and one full-length manuscript. I figured out possible titles. It was wonderful.

I wrote in my journal--my real, paper journal, which I've somewhat neglected as I've been blogging more and more. It was fabulous.

I've wondered what accounts for my productivity, and I have to assume it's because I had such few distractions. I didn't have to think about food preparation/clean up or shopping. I didn't have to go to work. I didn't have a computer, television, radio, or any other electronics.

There's a natural rhythm to life in an abbey or monastery--it's set up that way. There are certain hours for prayer and worship, certain hours for sleep, certain hours for eating, certain hours for work, and certain hours for reading and study. And since everything is on site, it leads to more productivity. There's no driving to work, to church, to school, to the library. Certainly there's some driving, as the monks don't raise all their food. But much of the busy rushing to and fro isn't part of the monk's life.

When I visit, I fall right into the natural rhythm. In some ways, I feel more wrenched as I return to regular life, with the noise and the traffic and the work crises that must be addressed. Some people have asked me if it wouldn't be easier if I didn't make these periodic retreats. After all, I wouldn't have the re-entry-to-regular-life process to endure. But I can't imagine how burned out I would be in short order if I didn't make periodic retreats and vacations. Actually, I can imagine, and that's why I make the effort.

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