Welp, here I am at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara.
I have given my first retreat on The Vocation of the Artist.
As of a few weeks ago, it seemed that no-one had signed up for the second retreat (essentially a repeat of the first, that was to take place on the following weekend).
Then, a day before the first retreat began it turned out a bunch of people had signed up at the last minute for the second one after all.
Then, when the first one was half-way through, I was asked if I wanted to return next year!
Life, in other words, as usual has been full of surprises.
It’s almost overwhelmingly beautiful here. My bedroom window overlooks a large lake and behind it, a large mountain. The Victorian walled garden is a 20-minute walk through gorgeous woods, waterfalls, fracken, and ponds.
Fun facts, gleaned from placards in and around the grounds:
“The pygmy shrew is Ireland’s smallest animal, weighing no more than six grams–about the same as a teaspoon of sugar. Mouse-like in appearance, though unrelated, the shrew has a long snout, brown fur, and tiny eyes and is known in the Irish language as ‘the blind animal of the heather.'”
“During the restoration work [of the Gothic Chapel] the external stonework was cleaned and repointed. The conservation work involved repairs to the main roof, floors and roof of the tower, the leaded windows, conservation and repair of ironwork, rainwater goods and joinery. All marble columns were taken down, repaired and reinstated. Heating, electric and water systems were installed. Restoration works were reprogrammed when it was found teh the main roof is home to the largest known colony of Natterer’s bats in Ireland. Great care was taken to ensure that the bats were not disturbed. The colony has since bred sucessfully every year.”
These whole almost three months “abroad’ have been an adventure and a massive gift. Still, I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been many moments when my spirit has flagged.
In fact, I find I’m a little homesick–interestingly, not so much for Tucson, where I live (though I can hardly wait to return), but for LA.
To the point where the last few nights I’ve watched The Bling Ring (truly, deliciously tawdry), Inherent Vice (lame, except for Joaquin Phoenix), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (has not aged well), and now I’m in the middle of Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The magic-hour light, the salmon bougainvillea, the winding streets in the Hollywood Hills, Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, the tucked-away Valley towns of Panorama City and Chatsworth, the saturated colors, the beautiful people, the classy cars, the fantastic sunglasses!
People who despise LA have never lived there and come to love it.
Of course if I were actually in LA I’d be bitching about the traffic and the grotesque superficiality, and dreaming of the green, water-soaked, misty landscape of Ireland.
Which would not be good!
This morning, in Erik Varden’s Entering the Twofold Mystery, I read about the excommunicable-from-the-monastery (per St. Benedict) sin of “murmuring”: i.e. complaining; radiating a negative attitude to those around you.
“Murmuring betrays an urge to stay in control. We murmur when we don’t get what we think we deserve; when what we think of as our needs are not met…By murmuring we decline. We crave satisfaction at once. We effectively say, ‘I know best, give me what I desire, then leave me alone.’ We cut God off. We exclude ourselves from the land. We condemn ourselves to die in a barren wilderness. A habit of murmuring in daily life can slowly but surely strangle a soul.”
That, we cannot have. So on I go, beaming my sunny disposition to all who come within my orbit!
Seriously, I’m thrilled to give the retreat again. A huge experience of offering and receiving. Very rich.
And a week from today, God willing, I will be boarding a flight for Dulles, from there to connect to Phoenix, then a shuttle bus to Tucson, then a cab the last short couple of miles home.