Yesterday I left five days at a Franciscan Retreat Center on 35 wooded acres north of Lansing, Michigan for a Catholic Writers’ Retreat. Each day we enjoyed Mass in the peaceful chapel and hours dedicated to quiet and writing. We 17 met for meals and socializing in the evenings. Gratefully, for the first time I feel connected to a writing community. I didn’t write thousands of words as many who attended with me. But it was a true mental health break that I wasn’t aware I so desperately needed. And in that way, it has opened my heart and mind to write thousands more words than I would have at home and in my favorite writing space.
Today I awoke in an even more remote wooded area in Hubertus, Wisconsin, at a place known as Holy Hill. The peacefulness is palpable as I walked under towering trees of vibrant colors. Does peace go deeper and stronger, moment by moment? It surely does in this place. Rosary and Mass at the Basilica was attended by about 500 people. (Thankfully, they’re not all staying at this 30 room guest house of the monastery where Discalced Carmelites live!) After Mass I walked the path of the spectacular outdoor Stations of the Cross and sat I silence for at least a half hour in the simple, beautiful Chapel of St. Therese.
In between these two life changing events, was the interstate drive. Only the fact that I had left peak tranquility and knew I was headed for more of the same was I able to maintain sanity as I drove six hours, including skirting south of Chicago at rush hour. The drivers in Indiana and Illinois are in a great race. They consistently drive at least 10 miles over the speed limit and weave from far left to far right and back again, over and over. Without exception they completely ignore lower speed limits in work zones, while men and women toil in those zones. Where are they going? Why are they in such a rush? Because their life demands it? I’m not sure if anyone actually wins their race.
What I witnessed on the interstate represents a zippier route to death than any life could require. My experience on the retreat and on lovely Holy Hill is, to me, an example of life as it is intended: life that makes time to enjoy the gifts in creation – the people, the foliage, the animals, the sun, moon, and stars. This pace allows time to rush to Jesus in our hearts. This energy spent re-energizes from the inside out.