Saturday, November 06, 2010


I apologize for the blurriness of the previous photo. It was dusk, and my camera doesn't zoom as much as I'd like. The deer were lovely, though, trust me!

The retreat center's lovely, too. Tranquil grounds and clean and comfortable rooms: very nice! Last night, I walked to a restaurant across the street and treated myself to salmon. Then I came back to my room and knitted until ten, when I went to bed, feeling very peaceful. I was hoping to wake up early enough to go out for a real restaurant (with real coffee), since I suspected the retreat center coffee would be too weak for me.

I woke up at 1:30 a.m., not feeling peaceful. My throat felt like someone had scrubbed it with steel wool and then stored the steel wool in my sinuses. I lay awake until 2:30, sneezing and coughing and feeling rotten about making so much noise (because it's a silent retreat center, you aren't supposed to make noise even during the day, and this was the middle of the night, and there was someone in the room next to mine), and then finally got back to sleep. I woke up again at 8:30, with just enough time before the retreat started to shower, dress, pack, strip my bed, bundle up linens and towels for laundry, and remake the bed sans linens, as instructed.

So much for breakfast and real coffee.

Luckily, I had Power Bars with me. Also, it turned out that the retreat center coffee was just strong enough for two mugs of it to stave off my usual caffeine-withdrawal migraine, not that I felt terribly awake. And the tranquility of the building was still lovely.

Our retreat met in a small room, since it was supposed to be a small group: seven people plus two facilitators. Four people didn't show, so it was three people and two facilitators. This gave us time to talk, which was nice, but it meant that we missed out on the diversity of experience and perspective we'd have had with more participants. Also, the material presented was really basic: Grief 101. I'd expected that, but I'd also expected that we were going to do exercises or rituals that would help us work through specific issues. That turned out not to be the case. Most of the day was talk; we did one prayer ritual in the chapel, but most of that was talk, too, except for lighting candles.

The upshot is that I didn't come away learning anything new, or learning new ways to process anything old. We also never got to the one thing I really wanted to talk about: the effect of grief on physical health. That's okay. It was still a pleasant day with nice people, and a Grief 101 refresher isn't the worst thing in the world, especially as I head into my first holiday season without my mother.

I wish I'd been feeling better physically, though, and I do wish the group had been more diverse. There was one man who'd just lost his wife, and me: the other three people (including two facilitators) were older Catholic women, one a nun, who were considerably more theologically and politically conservative than I am. At lunch, for instance, they insisted that the man sit at the head of the table, while bemoaning the fact that Kids These Days don't do anything right. I, one of the Kids, sat there thinking, "You're kidding me, right? I haven't really just been plunked in a time machine and transported back to the nineteen fifties?" (Had there been any round tables in the room, I'd have suggested moving to get around the problem, so to speak.) We also had a conversation about how too many people don't observe the proper purity laws before taking communion; you can guess where I came down on that issue! On the other hand, this particular group seemed supportive of the idea of ordaining women in the Catholic church, so that was refreshing.

If there'd been more participants, especially some my age or younger, I probably wouldn't have wound up feeling like a wild-eyed radical. In PSR courses in Berkeley, I often play the role of terribly conventional suburban square. I guess all of this is good for me: exposure to different viewpoints, etc.

The drives in both directions were not only painless (I hit only a tiny bit of construction yesterday), but breathtakingly beautiful: autumn foliage along mountain rivers with blue peaks in the distance. That may have been the most healing part of the trip. That, and seeing the deer.

So I'm glad I went, although not as glad as I'd hoped to be. I'm grateful I'll be sleeping in my own bed tonight, even if I have Heaps o' Grading to do tomorrow. I just hope the blasted cold or allergy attack or whatever it is eases off soon!

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