I kept a journal during my silent retreat last weekend at Holy Cross Abbey. Here’s what I wrote.

Saturday, July 24 (continued)

After spending an hour reading under a tree, in the breeze, which was lovely, I decided to walk up to the monastery store. It is hot. The road is not shaded. I am sweaty.

Turns out the shop is operated by the monk with a cold, who was blowing his nose during compline last night.

The store sticks a vast number of books about God, which I am not interested in reading at this moment in my life. Also lots of preserves, jellies, and candy made by monks and nuns. And a couple random books like the collected works of Flannery O’Connor.

Back to the retreat house. It is seemingly empty. I wonder where everyone is. I saw a handful of retreatants going in and out of the kitchen this morning but mostly people have disappeared.

Outside smells often like manure, which nauseates me. When I went to the kitchen for ice water I thought I smelled beans, which also nauseated me.

I hope lunch is not soup. I could never be a monastic because I am not that fond of soup.


Just woke up from a long, luxurious nap. I slept much more soundly than last night. I dreamed that I was here but it was different. I suddenly discovered a big playground filled with tons of noisy children. I realized I had brought Zoe with me and wasn’t sure why or where she was. I was at the playground and was surprised to see a bunch of my friends, including Silvia, Sara, Diane, and Alexis. Alexis was visibly pregnant and wearing a lavender shirt. I wanted to tell them that I thought I was pregnant, or maybe I actually did. I realized I needed to find Zoe so I rode a very old bicycle around the playground. I scooted it between equipment and some kids buying snowcones at a cart. There were a lot of sticks on the ground so I had to stop riding and carry the bike. I walked it up the steps of what was supposed to be the retreat center but what looked like an elementary school. Inside I found Zoe running up and down the halls and wondered how on earth I had brought her there.

Lunch, thankfully, was not soup or beans. It was beefaroni, broccoli, and corn. Not particularly flavorful, but fine. I wondered who or what the beans I had smelled were for. Daniel (the caretaker) told us the monks eat mostly vegetarian, plus fish on Sundays. He said previously that he’s only been here three months and during that time ambulances have been called to the retreat house three times. He talks a lot about the monks and encouraged us to write them letters, presumably if we knew them. I’m not sure how exactly we would know them. He seems to revere them. I wonder if he was once a would-be monk or maybe revering monks is just the thing to do.

He read to us last night at dinner and today at lunch from a book on spiritual disciplines, on the topic of celebration as a spiritual discipline. It’s must easier to worry than to celebrate joy and life, which is apparently why it’s a discipline you have to work at and practice. Apparently Jesus told people to be free of care and not worry so much.

As always, I wondered why I am so attached to my anxiety. Part of me wonders who I would be without it.

I was the only non-Catholic in the room at lunchtime. I wonder if there are Unitarian retreat centers, or whether it matter. Perhaps the only difference would be reading material that I find more appealing. But I brought books.


I went to Vespers. Heat outside was overpowering. I felt like Vespers was largely indistinguishable from Compline. I acknowledge I was distracted because I felt nauseous and itchy. An elderly monk wheeled himself in with his walker to concelebrate the service. He slept through most of it, his head bobbing up and down as the other monks chanted. Perhaps I will skip Compline tonight and just take a walk at 8.

I’ve been here for just over 24 hours not and I feel ready to go home. Maybe I’ll leave after breakfast.


I think one of my favorite things here is cleaning up after dinner with everyone. 

The reading at dinner was more about celebration. This time, how to practice it. He talked about noise and laughter and joking and singing and dancing. The author also wrote (and Daniel read aloud) “there is also a kind of dancing that promotes sin and evil, but that’s another matter entirely.” I laughed. The monk-in-training at my table laughed too.

After cleanup one of the women whispered something to another woman and they laughed and hugged. I started to get lonely.


Walked two more miles. Saw one person, plenty of cows, beautiful butterflies. The cows were loud. Wonder what they were talking about.


I really miss Randy and Zoe