August 12: “I read your blog,” Kevin told me. “I don’t think I have the energy to be retired.”
I’m not sure I do either. I confessed my fatigue this morning to my yoga teacher. She kindly offered a practice designed to renew my depleted resources. It worked well enough for me to make my way home, do what needed to be done, take a three-hour nap — and then go to a baseball game to welcome home our young World Series hero Juan Soto (traded 10 days ago).
Everyone who owned a Soto shirt wore one tonight. We cheered everything — a video tribute of Soto’s highlights as a Washington National, a charming recorded message he addressed to his loving and sorrowful fans, even his first few at bats for the opposing team.
I left before the game had ended — sad, tired and still full of gratitude.
August 13: The humidity dropped to an invisible 69% and the temperature evoked Fall. Cautioned about the long wait for their beverages and breakfast treats, cafe customers happily waited outside: a pair of young women catching up, a man scrolling his phone, and a dad entertaining his toddler. The dad led his child to a garden box near the curb, its low brick wall making a perfect toddler bench. (When the dad sat down, his knees brushed his chin.) Under the dad’s easy gaze, the child explored the irregular brick sidewalk, the garden’s liriope meadow, and — best of all — the dirt.
Eventually two moms came out of the coffee shop with half-full ice lattes. (The dad is now sipping one too.) A phone emerged only to take a photo. The dad seemed to enjoy playing with his child in this improbable place. And I think the moms enjoyed their play too.
August 14: I did today what I never do: I lingered an exceptionally long time before a piece of art. (I also attended the art exhibition on the very last day, but I do that all the time.)
On Thursday, a book club friend exclaimed over the exhibition of the work of Joan Mitchell at the Baltimore Museum of Art. I was vaguely aware that Mitchell painted abstract splashes, patches and strings of color. I like color and I’d be near Baltimore on Sunday, so I decided to go.
I breezed through, nodding “That’s nice, that’s nice, that’s nice,” but I wasn’t dazzled. (That’s not really fair, except that I’ve been dazzled a lot at art exhibitions recently.) Before exiting, I decided to return to a monumental triptych that I’d pretty much ignored 20 minutes earlier. I settled on the bench — and then completely lost myself.
At first my brain was busy finding stories (a blue taxi cab blanketed in flowers like a Kentucky Derby winner?), conversations (the wine red ribbons are here, and here, and here!) and mysteries (were those slabs of snow hiding Easter eggs?). And then my brain clicked off. Time disappeared. The people around me vanished. And I was aware of nothing except the sensation of fearlessly receiving whatever this work wanted so urgently to give me.
I eventually yanked myself away like a suction cup from tile and got back into my car. I steered toward my annual silent retreat, already having been nose-to-nose with transcendence.
Bonus: Sans Neige (Triptych) was one of the three Mitchell paintings featured in the opening video, which I had no patience to watch when I first arrived. Painter Stanley Whitney observed, “This painting dances — and all through color and mark. I mean it’s wide open. She is obviously having a good time in her life.” Maybe I sensed that. I’m having a good time in my life too. And Joan Mitchell is telling me that’s ok.
August 15: I begin my silent retreat at the Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center with humility and a little trepidation. No beaches, no baseball, no outings, no museums. I ….. will ….. slow….. down ……
August 16: When Nate travels, he acquires stories avidly but sheds them slowly. No homecoming raconteur is he. Instead, for example, a tale from El Salvador will pop up when we’re discussing mentors or surfboard wax. Therefore, I relished his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Instagram video from Greece: his friends clustered at a sidewalk cafe, Nate frolicking around the table, then Nate suddenly bare-chested and emptying a wine bucket over his head. (It was funny.)
I broke the fourth wall and texted him — huh?? He responded this morning by shooting me a link to Komos, which Wikipedia describes as a ritualistic drunken procession performed by revelers in Ancient Greece — and perhaps the root word for comedy. “I lost a bet, basically.” But he also won the affection of the cafe. Nate texted again: “The staff at the restaurant saw us on the street the next day and invited us to come back again. 😂😂 They loved it.”
Bonus: As I type this, Nate and his friends are attending the wedding of their high school friend Dimitri. He texted me again: “The wedding will last from 7 pm to 7 am. Then we have to be on the road by 11 am. 🤪” I’ll be sure to monitor Instagram for more stories.
August 17: Today during my retreat, I bumped into my former yoga teacher, who I introduced to Bon Secours a few years ago. We broke silence (the rules are very gentle) and caught up. She told me she’s been working at Potomac Vegetable Farms in Vienna, Virginia, in the shadow of the towers of Tysons Corner. Launched by the family’s grandmother 50 years ago on rented Virginia land, the farm uses what they call “ecorganic” techniques and sells its produce exclusively through farmers markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture networks. My friend plants, weeds and harvests vegetables on the five-acre spread near Tysons Corner.
This sweet video recounts the grandmother’s journey from a music degree at Oberlin Conservatory of Music to farmland squeezed inside Northern Virginia’s suburban sprawl. And it inspires me to fill my bag with kale and cucumbers at their stand this week at the Falls Church Farmers Market.
Bonus: Another Instagram sighting of Nate: a photo of the seaside wedding, a video of Nate and his friends singing and dancing to “Mama Mia” at 4:50 am (!), and a glimpse of five very tired young men on a boat to their next destination.
August 18: Many, but not all, of the participants in our six-night silent retreat are women. Many, but not all, of the women are members of religious orders. (I miss you, Sister Julie!) And virtually all of us attend daily Mass.
This week, there’s no organ, piano, guitar or hymn leader. If we want music, it’s our voices or nothing. And so it is. Someone offers the first few notes (and, I suppose, a key, but I wouldn’t know about that). Then twenty-five voices join in strong acclamation. No organ carries us; no cantor sings for us. In praise, we simply make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
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