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Silent Retreat

My friend and colleague David was eager to introduce me to his personal meditation practice. I have never historically gone in for that kind of thing. A bunch of people sitting around cross-legged, humming to no song I knew, risking vascular disease or worse varicose veins. The goal apparently is to clear your mind of everything, to embrace nothingness. Oh please. That’s what work is for. I was quite sure these retreats were for people who had no weekend plans. When really pressed, David would use words like transformation, spirit, and reflection. So it was curious when he came and left monastic life. All of us at work were quite sure that the poor bastard really just missed sex.

He often suggested I go with him to a silent meditation retreat. Why I said, I was getting sex. David insisted that it would be life changing. Well, so was that rash in ’94 but I don’t want to revisit that. He persisted so I began to entertain the idea. Immediately I said, “what do you mean silent?” He said, “silent”. I said, ” no I heard you, but what do you mean silent?” He said, “what do you mean what do you mean? You spend the weekend alone in cabins and you don’t talk.” Well that was nearly the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard of. For me, “I talk therefore I am.” David would not take no for an answer, and me feeling sorry for the guy assuming he just had no plans for the weekend, I agreed. We drive about 2 hours into Northern Wisconsin, which is not known for being a particularly hospitable part of the country. It’s always cold, cloudy, and like clockwork every time I cross the state line I would say aloud, ” it wouldn’t be a bad idea to just put some Prozac into the main water supply around there 송파스웨디시. “

So David very aptly drives us to this retreat center, 2.5 hours away, which is run by Catholic nuns. A renovated farmhouse greets us, where we check in and then are given a map to find our cabin. “A map I said? Isn’t my room just upstairs, down the hall from the sauna?” David gives me the shut up look as we sign for our keys. What? I said, “is that so wrong to request the room by the sauna?” “Donna, he says, there is no sauna, there is no pool, and don’t start asking around for the café. We are at a silent retreat!” I don’t know why he keeps telling me that.

I find out I am in the St. Francis cabin. How charming. I love St. Francis, learned about him in Catholic grade school. If I remember correctly he is the patron saint of coffee beans or something. I think in fact it was St. Francis who said, “there is no such thing as strong coffee, just weak people.” David drives me down this dirt road to my cabin. I am eerily aware that there doesn’t seem to be any other buildings in sight. I refuse to get out of the car. I spent my early years in Baltimore city in a row house. I didn’t see grass until I was 13. I would be damned if I will go to this shack alone. “Where is your cabin, I ask?” He says, ” Right over that hill, I am in St. Leo’s. Well I want to be in St. Leo with you. I feel my lip even quiver a bit. C’mon it will be great fun, we can talk, tell stories, play some strip poker. Donna, “get out of my car.” Well, I do not like his tone. I begin to tear up and say, OK what is your cell number? He says, “I didn’t bring my phone and in fact give me yours.” Are you crazy I said? “So when Ed Gein the notorious Wisconsin serial killer comes looking for me I will what? Ask him to wait at the door while I send smoke signals out the window? Or how about Morse code David? How many tap taps does it take to yell, “Jesus, someone help me, Ed Gein is here looking for more lamp shade material. ” Donna, David says, Ed Gein died in 1952.”Yeah, well he probably has off spring that live around here. David grabs my phone and leans over, opens my door and says, “get out or I will kill you before his offspring finds you.”

I cannot believe this is happening. All my girlfriends are having a fabulous dinner party tonight talking about whose not having sex, and here I am with Gandhi. I proceed to get out, I am pissed. I am grabbing my stuff when David says, “Donna, what is that?” I said, oh that’s this cool mini stereo thing I bought for this weekend. “What is it about silent, he said, that you don’t understand?” “You mean I can’t have music in my cabin?” People on death row get radios David! He then grabs my stereo and puts it under his arm along with my phone, and gently pushes me onto my little St. Francis coffee bean saint steps and says, ” I will see you later.” “I say when? When exactly?” He says at dinner. At dinner??? That’s 6 hours from now. Yes it is, he says, thank God. And off he drives to St. Leo’s cabin, obviously the patron saint of icky no good friends.

I enter the cabin and am shocked to realize it is smaller than my Jetta inside. It has a bed, a rocking chair, a sink, and an outrageous space they call a shower. I was clearly too tall for this shower which is bizarre, given that I am only 5’6. It was not going to be wide enough for me to wash my hair with both hands unless I just wanted to take turns jamming my elbows into the wall. Well I thought, perhaps tonight I’ll use my right hand and just wash the right side of my head, tomorrow the left. I’m sure no one would notice at dinner that one side of my head was bouncy clean and the other side slicked down along side my ear. I could always say it was something new we were doing in the cities.

I sit on the bed. If that’s what one would call a bed. More like a sheet covering a door. A little thinner and I would have assumed someone had left his or her ironing board here. I sit on the chair, that wasn’t so bad. I look at my watch and think, only 5 hours and 47 minutes until I can rage at David and talk to someone. It was not hard to fall asleep as the only reading material in the room was about meditation and mindfulness. I was relieved to wake up fours hours later, that was a great way to blow some time. I wondered what David was doing and what was for dinner.

Six o’clock finally arrives and I am giddy with excitement. I couldn’t recall ever having been quiet for so long other than sleeping. I run to the farmhouse. I see many people inside, I am thrilled. But oddly enough, it’s so very quiet. Don’ they know that talking is permitted at meals? I then see the sign, no talking until tomorrow at lunch. Are you kidding me? Lunch? What time is that? I see David, and glare at him. I hated him in that moment, in the way you hate your dentist right before a root canal, or hate the recycling guy when he wakes you up at 5:30 am throwing bottles and cans in the truck. David sees me see the sign and breaks into this huge grin. Now I hate him in the way you hate the guy that pulls out his phone in a nice quiet intimate coffee shop. I refuse to sit with him. That will be his punishment. Yes I will make him suffer of the loss of my company. As I sit at another table he smiles even bigger. I hope that fricking St. Leo cabin has some plumbing catastrophe or something tonight.