Leaving the lab, my family and my friends to live here on the prairie was not an easy choice. But, I am here waiting to experience a northern winter for the first time in my life. I was and I am still excited and scared at the same time. I was born and lived in Mexico for the most part of my life. Then, six years ago, I moved to US and was living in Houston, Texas. So I don’t know what to expect about winter in Wisconsin. But the winter is not the only thing that scares me.
I was working at Houston Medical Center, at Baylor College of Medicine, doing research. I was not happy; little by little my work stopped having meaning. All the excitement for research that had accompanied me the last twenty years of my life had abandoned me, leaving me empty, dry, in a foreign country, without my family and old friends. After some years of solitude I had only a handful of new, very dear friends.
During this unhappy or meaningless time I met one dear friend, Martha. She told me about “Ordinary Life,” a class led by Dr. Bill Kerley, a retired Methodist minister in Houston. He teaches “religious and spiritual literacy,” in his own words. One Sunday he told us about the Rule of Benedict and the ecumenical Benedictine sisters in Wisconsin. I Googled it and voila! Holy Wisdom Monastery was my first option. I looked at the website and after some emails and phone calls to Ann Moyer I arranged an appointment for a weekend retreat.
The first time I met Ann at the bus stop in Madison, I felt welcome. Holy Wisdom Monastery is a beautiful building and the people here are great. When I met Sister Joanne; she took my arm and asked me to follow her to prayer time. I felt her touch and the way she spoke to me as if my granny was talking to me. I turned and looked at her face twice to be sure she was not my beloved granny, who left this world almost twenty year ago. This encounter with Sister Joanne was a gift and a reminder that life continues. When I met Sisters Lynne and Mary David I felt the same welcome—no questions, just welcome. Then I heard Rosy, who was still a novice, singing at evening prayer and she welcomed us too.
Along with me there were four more ladies experiencing this lovely welcome, my holy sisters as I call them. We met for three days with Sister Lynne and Ann. It was a great time; we talked with open hearts. We had five different backgrounds but the same grand need. We were looking for Jesus, his love, his message. But the roads we traveled previously had not showed us Jesus. Maybe we didn’t see him there or he was there, but we weren’t ready to experience his love. Three days passed as a dream, so fast and it was time to leave. Three days wasn’t enough for me, but I would have to wait until my next opportunity to return.
Two months later, three of us returned for a two-week visit. When we arrived we received love and welcome once again. I experienced a new balance between working and praying. We prayed three times a day, worked in the garden, in the kitchen and at Bingen House. I enjoyed Chef Barbara’s food, and I loved the timing, always lunch and dinner are served at the same time. All this new experience was a taste in preparation of what life is like as a Benedictine Sojourner.
The more I learned, the more I wanted to know and experience at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Now I am here planning to stay for six months. Even though I was not used to working outside, I enjoy working in the garden a couple of hours a day. (Pictured here, I am working with Denise in the monastery orchard.)
Winter will come soon—people told me last week and I thought, but for me this is winter! I don’t want to be caught unprepared, so I just got a new snow coat, gloves, hat and boots that will keep me warm even if the temperatures go below 22 °F. But the winter is not the only thing that scares me.
I moved here because I want to change. Here nature shows me a lot of changes every day, like the beautiful red tree in front of the monastery that today is without a leaf. I almost can’t recognize it this morning and I wonder if something like this could happen to me also in these six months in the Wisconsin prairie? Then I remember spring always follows winter, and this life is a changing process after all.
Read this post in Spanish. Para seguir a paz en español: Desde la mesa de laboratorio hasta la pradera
Read more from Paz in her blog series, Little notes from a prairie journey.