Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our Lady of the Rock -- Part 4

Mothers. Here was a room full of them. Orderly and crisp in black and white. Worshipful, generous, aged but strong. Here in this woodland island chapel, they offered this place of peace, a lovingly burnished sacred space. I drank it up for a glorious while, but it wasn’t long before my euphoria began to crumble. I started to squirm, pestered by thoughts of my own mother nibbling at my consciousness.

I should be there with her, not here. I can see her staring into the darkness of her living room with drawn curtains while I enjoy all this.
But how could I not be here?
I’m taking it all for myself.
Bring her here...
How could I bring her here? She couldn't stand it.
...Hush then...Let her be.

My ruminations turned into anticipation of meeting all the sisters; I had my afternoon to settle in and have a nap. I was ready for some fun; I anticipated hanging with the sisters in the kitchen, asking them all about life, their life, farm life, my life, all while cooking together... When was this Vespers supposed to end anyway?

Finally, the nuns stood; blessed me, then left through the door on their side of the partition. I hurried outside. One of the sisters, looking serious and substantial, waited with a small basket in hand covered with a cloth. I recognized the nun as the one who sat staring down into the pasture at her flock of llamas and sheep.

"Hello!" I said, excited to begin our time together. It was hard to read her. She had a no-nonsense, almost stern expression; and I couldn't tell if she was welcoming me, or if I just sort of was.

"Hello," she replied. "I am Mother Hildegard. I understand you would like to cook with us while you are here. Were you thinking of something in particular?" Her expression remained plain and unreadable.

"Oh, I'd be happy to do anything you like!" I chirped, hoping to make a good impression. Knowing how wholesome this place was, I continued, "I could do some bread, something with that pastured meat, or if you have any produce still here I could work with that...or..." Mother Hildegard furrowed her brow and looked down at her feet. I could see this was not what she had in mind.

"Well, we were thinking something more in the line of desserts." she hedged, meeting my gaze from beneath her starched cap. "The sister who usually does that kind of thing is not here right now."

"Hmmmm." I said. "Well, with all that raw milk you've got here, we could do a crème brûlée?"

Her eyes met mine and grew wide. "Oh yes!" she said, "I love creme caramel made with raw milk! The milk sort of separates while it is cooking so it gets creamier and lighter at the top than on the bottom!"

Raw milk crème brûlée. That was intriguing. "Crème brûlée it is then, if we can get some cream.” I said. "When should we start?"

"I will come down to the work kitchen right next to the guesthouse, tomorrow morning after Terse, about 9:45. I'll show you around and make sure you have whatever you need. Will that do?" she said as she held out the basket. "Here is your supper. It's not too fancy, we were trying to use up some of the things from earlier this week."

"Uh, sure...thank you!" I said weakly as I took the basket, realizing that I had just been dismissed. She nodded and disappeared behind the gate. I stole a look of the monastery itself as she slipped behind the gate. It was a simple single-story structure mostly hidden behind a moss-covered boulder. How can all those women live in there? I wondered. The front of it was perhaps glass and heavy wooden beams, not surprising architecture in the Northwest--kind of Asian-in-the-woods. The gate snapped shut behind Mother Hildegard; and I stood for a moment, staring at the wall before me with the realization that I was to be left alone for the rest of the night, and for the rest of my stay, with my thoughts. And darkness was coming.

Basket in hand, I wandered back to the guesthouse, slowly, for time was all I had. Silently, I lifted the cloth and pulled out a bit of beef and noodles. I heated the meal, and ate some of it at the table; but I hadn’t planned on eating alone, and didn't really have the stomach for it tonight. I made some tea and sat back down at the table, and watched as the cow, heavy with milk, skin pulled over bone, amble back to the barn.

There we were, me, my mother, the nuns, and the cow; all cloistered in our own little corners. What is the difference, anyway? I thought ruefully. It’s time I went back to her. I watched as darkness, the deep darkness that only happens on islands, enveloped our worlds.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post...but so lonely. You have quite the talent for story telling.


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