As we were sitting together in Starbucks posting blogs, drinking our 2nd refill of real, non-freeze-dried coffee, we got to talking about food… this was a mistake. Our fare for the previous 2 days had been spare & way, way over on the vegetarian side. Beggars (& retreat-ants) can’t be choosers, my Grandmother would say, but still, the thought of miscellaneous steamed veggies, AGAIN, as the main course, pushed us over the edge. We needed a road trip – the guy behind the counter who so attentively had made sure that we got our coffee refills also had a good suggestion for 3 guys that were hankering for red meat – the Riverside Grille & Bar, in nearby Red Bluff (only 17 miles up the 5.) And we’re off…
We pulled into the Riverside & found that we were the only car in the parking lot – after double checking that they were indeed open (we’d called earlier too – that’s a 1st-born for you) we sauntered into the completely empty restaurant… completely empty except for 5 or 6 servers & the Bartender that was affectionately referred to by her co-workers using a less than kind reference to a specific part of her anatomy… Did I mention it was a cowboy restaurant? No matter – we wanted some feed, & this turned out to be a pretty great place to get it – big, burly, burgers; fries; tall icy-cold hefe; a seat overlooking the River. We hung out for a couple of hours & then decided we’d best waddle back to the Abbey before Brother John locked the front doors & we had to jump the fence (or sneak through the shrubberies) to get to our retreat.
The evening was passed in quiet contemplation. We all sat in our chairs (Moe & Ben had their rockers; I was sporting old-school green plastic chair,) reading various books:
Moe had “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller
Ben had “Leap Over A Wall” by Eugene Peterson
I had “Eat This Book” by Peterson
We spent the better part of the evening in silence, reading, with the quiet only broken by the ringing of the bell calling the monks to one of their scheduled prayer times, or by the occasional interjection made by one of us as we excitedly shared something that we’d just read & couldn’t keep to ourselves…
Finally, the bugs got so bad (they watered 2x a day, leaving the grass of the grounds a dead-ringer for mosquito heaven;) that we finally entered the Peace room & picked up our conversation of the day before – talking about:
• making music with friends;
• worship as a lifestyle;
• community living;
• one-sided relationships, (where one party seems to do all the giving, & the other does all the needing)
• eating too much food & the ethics of purging, just this once to deal with the aftermath of our cavalcade of red meat…
We ended up heading for bed after talking to & texting our wives & hearing the latest news of the day & night, including that my son had kissed a girl after youth group, & that she wanted him to, so he did it. And he liked it. Goodness.
It’s a travel day, so I woke up early, as usual. It’s a gift; and a curse, I’m sure. Stripped the bed, put new sheets on it, took the ‘dirties’ to their appointed place & woke up/tried to wake up the others. Ben was rolling, Moe wanted no part of it – so brother & I made our way to St. Luke’s kitchen for a last breakfast of PB&J bread & crackers.
Lucky for us, someone had gotten up at the crack o’dawn & had squeeze some of the oranges from the tree outside the window, had squeezed them just so that there was real live orange juice. Let me testify – there is a difference between the concentrate & the fresh squeeze-age.
By this time Moe was up & at ‘em. He really knows how to make a bed – both mine & Ben looked like a 3rd grader had done their best; Moe’s looked like Ines from “Bottle Rocket” - absolutely perfect. He claims his dad taught him how to do it. Very nice. I need lessons.
We liberated some OJ for Moe, then it was time to go – we left a “suggested donation” & our room keys with Brother John, & hit the road for home.
Other than a stop for gas, some down-time in construction traffic, & a detour to get directions to Reno (don’t ask. I won’t tell.) the trip home was uneventful. And quiet. Almost like we’d all adopted the “Grand Silence” for the trip home – we didn’t, but it sure seemed that way. I amused myself by saying lines from movies, & singing snippets of songs… Good times.
And now we’re home. What will the aftermath or the fallout of our semi-retreat to the Abbey of New Clairvaux be? Don’t know. But I do know, all over, that God wants me to have joy. And to BE joy-filled. So that’s where I’m at. You’ll have to ask the others their take, but I’m thankful for my friends. And for a new experience. I’ll definitely do it again – maybe not in the same place/venue, but I will do it again.