Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On retreat: sometimes peace is only 20 minutes away

I am on a writing retreat - 20 minutes  by car from my house, and I am in a different world. I am at the Sisters of Zion convent in Ein Karem, which is a picturesque neighborhood/village on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem. I came here a few weeks ago for the introductory meeting of a workshop that I decided not to participate it, but was captivated by the place, and the idea to come for one night, just by myself, a writing retreat, started to grow inside me. 

This is where I am sitting now, in the gallery in the above picture, there are plastic tables and chairs between the columns. It is night, darkness, all I can hear are a few dogs barking in the distance. I thought I heard singing before, maybe the nuns? I can smell the day's leftover heat, and herbs, perhaps rosemary. To my left is a garden which runs the length of the gallery. Under my feet, ancient flagstones. 

There is no-one else here.

From my world of hustle and bustle, living as we do on a main road so that stepping out of the front door is stepping into the cacophony of traffic, fumes, dessicating sunshine, consumers, commuters, shops and cafes, I feel as though I am on another planet. I have stepped to one side. I have stopped. 

The first thing I did when I got to my small room with its amazing view over the valley, was sleep. Suddenly, I was exhausted. I brought retreat snacks: Pringles, Oreos, and one naughty cigarette. I had the cigarette at this place, below, sitting in the chair, watching the sun set. Heaven.

Have I done any writing? I started something, who knows what. But I am not pressuring myself. It may be that I don't do anything here, but that something is released which comes out tomorrow, or the next day. I am trying to quiet the voice inside my head, which was running a nonstop commentary as I sat with my cigarette. It has settled down a bit now. The main thing is to be here, to drink in the silence. Silence. Complete silence right now. No dogs. No singing. Unbelievable. I am so glad I found this place!


Nik's Blog said...

Bliss, Tania. That looks and sounds like utter bliss. I am very jealous! Enjoy it, soak it up (the place, not my jealousy!).


Jo said...

i am typing very quietly. i really am. reading your post has made calm happen here, too.


Women Rule Writer said...

Wow. Enjoy, T, it looks wonderful. All that and the internet too!
I had to laugh at the one, naughty cigarette. Very 'Bridges of Madison County' - har har.

SueG said...

This looks and sounds like utter bliss. Enjoy!

Sarah Hilary said...

Do the Holy Sisters know that you are inciting unholy envy in your fellow writers?! It looks heavenly, Tania. Enjoy every minute. xx

Sarah Salway said...

Just looking at this makes me feel calm! Wonderful (and a single cigarette smoked sitting outside somewhere beautiful is my - luckily very infrequent - treat too)