I am going to a monastery in early September.
I know this because I went online this morning and booked four days of retreat at a nearby Trappist monastery.
This is an abbey sixty miles west of Boston, and a stay at the guest house used to be notoriously difficult to arrange. It used to require a phone call no more than six months before the proposed visit. On the first of every month, the single land-line to the guest master’s office would be consistently busy during the afternoon hours when hopeful visitors were directed to call.
Luck was never with me. I subsequently resigned myself to an occasional car ride out to Spencer, Massachusetts, in time for one of the midday services that the monks chanted in their chapel.
How quiet it used to be when I would pull off the state highway and drive the several minutes to the entrance gates of the Trappist property.
A one-time student for the priesthood, I always prided myself on my readiness for these cloistered settings. I considered them natural places for me to want to spend time exploring. Long, slow, contemplative walks were a specialty of mine. How easily I could settle down with a journal and pen my reflections.
The silence over the monastery fields would take me by surprise every time, though.
I felt out of my depth.
There were men here, I felt compelled to admit, who could do something with this silence that I had not yet learned.
For the first time this coming September, I will be away from a work setting where I have been one of the people who knew best how to handle the start of a school year. Instincts trained over the past thirty-seven years of working in the same school may find it hard to quiet down.
I have chosen to take myself away. I have chosen to find something different to tackle and listen to.
Retirement for an educator needs time to figure out what it might be about.