Christ in the Desert-Abiquiu, New Mexico
June 2, 2008
When I decided to take a retreat after working long and hard on the event I manage I chose Christ in the Desert by chance. Sure my mom had been here once but I would have much preferred to go to Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky or Mepkin in South Carolina but they were full. So I chose this place.
I have to say to this point that my choice was good one. Christ in the Desert is a Black Benedictine Abbey. That is they are the OSB order as opposed to the Cistercians or Trappists which are also Benedictines but are a later reform. This Abbey is trying to live the rule of St Benedict and in our after post modern world that is a struggle.
This morning I arose at 330 AM (I normally get up at 4 AM so this is no big deal) and I walked in pitch darkness from the guest house to the abbey. The stars here are un blemished by lights and seem larger- I guess being at 6300 feet will do that to you. The weather has all the seasons in one day, 40 at night 95 during the day.
The monks here chant the whole office- this morning was from 400 AM until 830- quite allot of praying but I guess I need it. My life in Chicago is good but it is devoid of contemplation and quiet. There is something always ‘on’ ipod, work, Sox Game, Phone. Here there are no cell phone signals and you area cut off in a fabulous valley of red rocks and an adobe monastery.
I actually wrote this morning for three hours. I have not done that for a long time. Poetry tends to come in bursts for me and rarely in long stretches. It was nice to do that work and not think about other work.
I kind of view these monks like I view my poet friends who lead charmed lives (Simone Muench, Robert Archembeau, Joshua Clover, Peter Gizzi, Jennifer Moxley, are good examples) they sacrificed money and prestige to become poets and teachers and now they have time and perspective to be poets. Those of us who did not make that choice are of course green with envy which is of course deadly sin. They are in some ways like the monks here. These monks gave up the active life but they now live in community focused on what they love the most… I think all artists are in fact the descendants of Monks and their quest for quiet, devotion and focus.
So lets see what happens here.
Can I really make it for 5 days in silence…. Stay tuned