Our days at the Monastery lasted from 6:30 in the morning to 6:30 in the evening, Monday through Friday. Technically we had free time to do whatever and to come and go as we pleased from 6:30 onwards until bedtime. Frequently, after a day filled with meditation, praying, working, and studying there was little we felt inclined to do except recline. After the last dishes were put away from the dinner service, I would often retire to the computer room to write my blog while the other girls went walking on the trails or spent time in the library. The first weekend I had spent at Holy Wisdom by myself, writing, exploring, writing, reading. It felt good to have that time to just devote to some of the things I love the best. The second weekend, the boyfriend drove the 3 hours up from Chicago after work that Friday night to visit me. . . .
The next week went by in a flurry of activity and every morning I felt happy and good about my time at Holy Wisdom. I was convinced it had been a much needed break for me and that I would return to Chicago well-rested and with a more peaceful outlook. That last weekend, I spent with the other girls in the program popping in and out of Madison enjoying concerts on the Capitol Square, swimming, the restaurant scene, and yet another visit to the amazing Mustard Museum. That Sunday we went to lunch at a celebrated Madison restaurant devoted to local Wisconsin fare and something startling happened to me as I settled into my chair. I became overwhelmed by the desire to be a part of city life again. I seemed to see everything and everyone around me in stark clarity at that moment. I missed it. I missed the noise and the people and the smells and…well, everything. I missed Chicago. . . .
There is truth in saying we have a place in our own history, in our own story and the story of the people whose lives we touch. When you are young you hear of the way other people live their lives and if it’s more exciting than yours you think, “Oh, I wish I had their life.” I used to wish I had grown up on a ranch in Wyoming or on the beach in Hawaii like some of my friends. I would wish for the rhythm of their days as they learned to surf at 3 or ride a horse at 4. I would imagine how exciting it would have been to have grown up with a jet-setting father or a politician mother and wonder how I would have been different if I had. I suppose it’s natural for us all to wonder, “What might have been.”
After spending time at Holy Wisdom the past three weeks, I knew without a doubt that my story was not written in county life or in monastery life. At least not this part. I had enjoyed those three weeks immensely and learned so much that I would take with me and apply in my later life. I would also enjoy the last week, savoring the experience and treasuring the knowledge of prayer, meditation, community, farming and gardening that I had been privileged to be a part of. In allowing me a space in their VIC program the women of Holy Wisdom Monastery had allowed me to step outside myself for a time and to choose a life, even for a short while, that I was not born to.
For those that know me, the idea of me getting up at 630 am and spending a good part of the day weeding around squash plants or trimming apple trees seems ludicrous. And many times, it was evident that the rhythm of that life at Holy Wisdom was as foreign to me as an Arab prince’s. But I did it and I learned to enjoy it for what it is and what it will always be, a good and fitting place for those who are born to it or who choose to embrace it. I belonged to the life at Holy Wisdom for a time and I would take that time with me back to the life where I did belong and would for the foreseeable future, no matter how far away my life might take me. Holy Wisdom has been good for me.
But in that moment at the restaurant, homesickness had come upon me like a sudden fever and all I wanted was to go home to that wonderful city of rats as big as small kittens and line cooks that sing love songs to each other in Spanish, and where I can go see a jazz band play at 4 am. My favorite city in the world, built by three generations of my family, loved by them all, and the place where no matter how far I travel, I have been written into Chicago’s story for all my life.
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For additional excerpts from Sarah’s on-going blog, click on this link: A Confirmed City Girl looks for God in a Monastery