Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seeking Peace

Saturday afternoon, I headed back down to the Vision of Peace Hermitages in Pevely, MO. This time, I didn't go alone; I brought three friends with me. We were blessed with absolutely perfect weather: clear, crisp days, highs in the mid-70s, light breezes through the trees.

Because we each had different schedules on Sunday, we caravaned down to Pevely, rather than riding together. When I pulled off the highway, I turned off the radio and began to soak in the silence. Two miles later, I turned into the driveway and took a deep breath. The half-mile driveway from the main road rises and dips in heavily shaded gravel. Within seconds, I am stepping out of the car and soaking up the beauty, the peace, the silence, and the comfort that is Vision of Peace.

The director, Larry Ponder, and I got my friends settled. We made arrangements to meet in the parking lot in time to leave for mass. And I settled into Beautiful Earth, my home away from home. I was restless at first. I unpacked. I set out the spiritual books, my Bible, my laptop. I considered the work I needed to do in preparation for the retreat I am running in 3 weeks. But I wasn't ready to tackle that project just yet.

So I pulled out a novel, stretched out on the bed, and dozed off. A short time later, I woke enough to realize I needed to set the alarm, or I would miss mass. Assured that I would wake in time, I drifted back into a deep, peaceful sleep, lulled by the sounds of the woods.

After mass and dinner, the four of us gathered on the deck, sharing a bottle of wine, as we talked politics and fiction, church business and movies. At one point, an owl swooped overhead. We listened to the sounds of the birds, the crickets, the occasional barge swimming upriver.

Sunday morning, I woke to the sounds of nature. I sat alongside the river to pray before my morning run. And again, after my run. And to eat breakfast. And then my friend and I climbed down to the riverbanks, and soaked up the peace in that place. I have never seen the Mississippi so still... so gentle... so quiet.

After lunch, I spent 4 hours laying out the plans for retreat sessions, interspersed here and there with pauses for prayer. When I was finally ready to leave, I loaded up the car, and paused once more... to gaze at the river, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving, and to soak up the silence one last time.

I kept the radio off in the car on my way home, doing my best to keep the silence and the peace with me, for as long as I can.

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