Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A State of Mind

We were cleaning our cars.  Of piles and piles of snow.  We were getting ready to leave.  He, after a week.   And I after a weekend.  He'd already told me how all of his female cousins had been abused by one male uncle... We were cleaning our cars of piles of snow...  (This was many years ago.)

He was a priest.  He'd been there on retreat.  And, in his sadness to leave the monastery - he told me he felt sorry I'd only had just the weekend.  But I wasn't sad.  I'd used to live near there.  I had received all I needed in a brief visit.  How could he know that?  For nearly 10 years I could come almost any time I wanted.  Every Sunday morning.  For Vespers on a Sunday evening. And sometimes, when the mood hit, we'd simply driven there (half an hour) just for Compline.  Many times I'd come up alone and spend long hours there.  That was when I needed something external.  They'd asked us to take charge on the hayrides at the yearly Festival. When we lived there.  

That was when they were still a dairy farm.  Before they sold the cows and became sheep farmers.

I tried to help him see:  I hadn't lost anything by coming for a weekend.  So  I told him, and it struck me at that moment:   Mt. Savior is a State of Mind.

How could he understand?  When I'd first gone there, the serenity and recollection of the monks was something I lacked.  Something they had.  ... But gradually, over time, it had seeped into me.  I hadn't realized it:  Not till that moment.

Mount Savior had become for me a State of Mind.


It was snowing so much - by the time I arrived - that it surpassed my recollection of my favorite memory of the place.

Driving up the hill, every tree, every branch was white with moist snow.  And it continued to snow, even as I reached the parking lot and struggled inside.  Where I was met with amazement!  They had never expected I would make it.  Indeed the plow had only just been through, the closed road opened.  Even the power was out.  And they had gathered in the entrance, full of windows - where they could see, with the power off.   Never expecting the traveler - me - to stagger in from the blizzard.   Driving.

Thank goodness I'd flown into Syracuse!  (The Abbot, himself, was stuck in New York City.)  I wanted to have the long, familiar road to myself.  It was like a pilgrimage.  I needed time - to go back in time - to relish the road, its curves, the hills.  To see Ithaca, the Lake - startling in its beauty as I reached the long, steep drop in altitude.  The road almost terrifying - in its nearly straight drop - to the valley below.  Then... up the steep hill on the other side - and winding my way - so familiar - so much of my past - toward Elmira and then on to Pine City - to the turn-off I'd just taken - actually arriving in the snowstorm - to the amazement of monks and guests alike.

The snow had increased at every step of my journey in the rented car.  I couldn't even turn back:  Home was no longer there to go to.  All I could do was press on - slowly - carefully - grateful it was still daylight and the road so well known - indeed more familiar the closer I got -  and the deeper the snow.

It was magical!

Like Orhan Pamuk's Snow - it was like that!  Except not like that.

My favorite memory of this place.  Recreated for me - surpassed even.  What a gift!

It was a snow of the kind for which poetry was invented.

Pure.  Wet.  Heavy snow.  Falling softly.  Every path magical in its transformation.  Every branch.  Every step.  Every instant.  Magical with snow!  The quietness of snow.  The sense of intimacy of snow falling.  Of going to sleep with it.  Of waking up to it.  Paths of snow.  Branches of snow.  Magical.  Mystical.  Pure.  White.  Wet.  Snow.

I'd come there to talk to the monks.  To ask them to pray.  To pray for victims of abuse.  And for their therapists.

But the Abbot was stuck in New York.  The monks knew nothing of my correspondence with him.

But everywhere I turned was confirmation of my task.  The old friend, a supervisor actually:  He recognized me at the Chapel.  He revealed he'd been abused by a priest.  The family we'd donated our car to:  The people who had taken in so many abused, neglected, and disabled children.  (I'd forgotten we gave away a used car... But they hadn't.)

It was snowing.  And I ran into so many old friends.

Amazingly, the Abbot made it back from New York City.  Just in time.  In time for me to talk to the monks.  To tell them of the plight of abused persons. Of how they felt abandoned by God and human kind.  To ask for their prayers.

I was touched at Mass that even the sermon seemed to reflect my plea.

It was timely.  The Church in the dock!  So many persons betrayed!  Like my former supervisor.  At Mass the day before.  Who could have known?

It seemed everyone had been touched by abuse.   The Abbot's godchild.  The priest's female relatives.  My friend, the former supervisor from my teaching days.

Is there no end to it!  No end to those abused by someone?

So there we were.  Cleaning our cars of snow.  And he, wishing I'd had more time there.  Really - wishing he'd had more time.  

The Church.  It's pastors so over-burdened....

I tried to tell him, to give it to him:  Mount Savior ~ as a State of Mind.


Fran said...

What a beautifully moving post. The writing itself is gorgeous and lush, but it is the content... Oh my.

I have been seeing your name in the comment boxes of blogs that I visit and decided to come over.

Thank you for what you have here and for your generous presence in this space.


TheraP said...

I have seen your name as well, Fran. Your presence here is a blessing. I am deeply touched by your comment, by your insight into what is emerging here - from what I would now describe as a "state of heart" or a "heart-scape" - like a well flowing up from within - from a source which lies beyond us but within us, if we would just embark on the journey.

Peace be with you.

jauna said...

How nice to see pictures of Mt Savior covered in snow. I was just there, after the snow melted, and made plans to be there for the week after Easter. I often feel like it is very hard to have a "Mt Savior state of mind" other places. As I drive up that little road, and pass by the Crucifix on the left- then I feel like sighing, and I say to myself- then and only then- "relax- it's Mt Savior time again." Thanks for your blog and your words about Mt Savior. I worry that such a place will not always be there- but if I can carry it in me- then it will.

TheraP said...


The photos are not "actually" of snow at Mt.Savior. The description was of a visit from many years ago - but the snow looked like that.

To carry it within you takes long years, I think. Of trying to put into practice the spiritual path that Mt. Savior represents. Until it happens for you, and it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, I believe, find whatever provides you that closeness to your Mt.Savior experience. That is what draws you deeper.

Peace be with you. And thanks for your comment here.

TheraP said...

P.S. The picture of Br. Pierre with the sheep, however, is genuine. Directly from Br. Pierre in a recent email.