Wednesday, March 7

What you might consider the weirdest sororital weekend trip.

I've been thinking, lately, about a monastery in which I spent three days. It was a restful time I spent with my sisters, praying and talking quietly, thinking about things. They had home-made jams and whole wheat bread, and libraries full of books that were new 30 years ago, windows that looked out on sunny California, so luscious under the smog.

The monks that were resident there had travelled widely with missions and scholarly pursuits; they seemed to be on a journey rather than resting to look back at the past--it was that they stood up straight and lived as if the world still continued around them.

I remember being inside myself quite a bit, then--it was as if I had broken away from a societal dance and felt myself spinning in patterns suddenly invisible. My head crowded with whys, crowded with prayers, crowded with rest and plans--it was like gasping for breath after having run a long distance. I was hurried to rest:)

Once I woke late at night and felt uneasy and went to the chapel to pray. It was a time of silence after 10 p.m. and so I crept about on the tile and down the cloister walk to the modern part of the building down to the chapel where there are daily services. It is a great thing to have a place of worship set aside in the same building that holds your bed.

It was at that place I learned to like lighting candles for my prayers. It is not a necessary ritual nor is it something I do based on a teaching or a doctrine of anything but my personal understanding of the words of the prophets, apostles, and Christ. Freedom to pray is something I don't think most people comprehend as a valuable thing.

Of course, I separate the incidents of inner peace with the accompanying memories of the car breaking down on the way back, in the middle of a sweltering day in downtown Los Angeles. And again at a shopping centre (where there was an ice cream place, thankfully). And the little bickering spats of having sisters. And being mortally tired from not understanding what was going on in my world.

So, in my own Wordsworthian sense of memory and time, I keep those moments of peace; I keep the smell of the Californian wildlife in the garden in the morning while the Great Silence still held in the time before breakfast; I keep the vision of the sun setting beyond the library windows; I keep the sigh of relief when I realised in conversation that I didn't have to be defensive about having suffered; I keep the feeling of being surrounded by people who wanted rest and life and looked towards eternity.

Saturday, March 3

The guy who runs the sushi-&-miso stand at the market does not speak English.

I'm in a bit of a muddle, not wanting to write. It rarely happens, you know--as evidenced by my multiple blogs and regular upkeep of them--but right now is the 3/4-way mark of my time in Ireland, and ergo it is also the hardest. My morale is at a predictable low.

And don't even MENTION thesis topics. Thesis bad.

Anyway, I have been reading Gaudy Night bits and pieces again--mostly the bits with Peter or Lord St. George in them because they have a quick, witty sense of humour that does not take pages and subtlety to appreciate.

"For another person's sleep is the acid test of our own sentiments. Unless we are savages, we react kindly to death, whether of friend or enemy."

She must have thought the Greeks, the Old Ones of England, the Romans--maybe all older "civilisations"--as barbarians. But she doesn't mean that, clearly, unless she generalises savagery to all civilisations modern and otherwise.

"It does not exasperate us; it does not tempt us to throw things at it; we do not find it funny."

Now that is certainly untrue. Death is both exasperating and funny as much as it is an ever-open wound. If I may quote another, "Even the most appalling of realities eventually loses its novelty" (Penelope Wilcock). Also, I could quote the Road Runner on the same subject, except that the whole "meep meep" thing doesn't translate out very well.

"Death is the ultimate weakness, and we dare not insult it."

Tell that to Hector. Well, never mind; Achilles was a barbarian.

"But sleep is only an illusion of weakness and, unless it appeals to our protective instincts, is likely to arouse in us a nasty, bullying spirit. From a height of conscious superiority we look down on the sleeper, thus exposing him in all his frailty, and indulge in derisive comment upon his appearance, his manners and (if the occasion is a public one) the absurdity of the position in which he has placed his companion, if he has one, and particularly if we are that companion."

That is an interesting idea, isn't it? All it needs is some shaving cream and a feather.