Anam cara, soul friends – they aren’t so easy to come by. There’s a lot more to “making friends” than being overtly bold and chummy on first acquaintance. Something happens beneath the surface of encounters with soul friends. Something that feels drawn, woven, connected, oddly inexplicable.
On Wednesday, after Vespers, I am graced with just such an encounter. Two of them, actually. Sitting in the lobby, waiting on the dinner bell, I find myself in conversation with Jan – a Methodist minister from Kansas who is on sabbatical. She’s vibrant, full of life, easy to talk to. Not long after MaryAnn joins in the soft chatter, in walks Micha – a stay-at-home mom and writer who is exploring Benedictine spirituality. My attention is drawn to Jan and Micha. They are on my end of the age demographic I have seen, in my limited monastic experience, represented at the monastery. We exchange introductory information, enough to set off fireworks in my gut, this strange feeling that I already know them somehow and that I’d like to know them better.
The dinner bell rings and as we head up the stairs, I invite Jan and Micha to join MaryAnn and I on a walk to the lake after we eat.
I’m waiting in the lobby after dinner to meet up with the ladies and head out, and Brother Shawn happens through the room. He stops to chat, and I tell him we’re planning to walk to the lake. He asks if we’d mind him coming along.
Being as we are all at a Benedictine monastery, intrigued by the lives of these faithful men and women who have chosen to give themselves so fully in their expression of devotion – of course we won’t mind the Brother’s company on our walk.
We’re all gathered now, plus another walking companion – Randy has decided to come along – and we set out. Quietly we make our way down the hallway, past the chapel and the guestmaster’s office. I’m reminded of our silent meals as together we partake in the silence of the hallways while listening to the symphony, not of clinking silverware and creaking floors but of clothes swishing and feet padding over the carpeted floor.
We file through the door just past the guestmaster’s office and stand in view of the chapel windows, on the hill overlooking the meadow. I pause to acknowledge the sacred beauty of the scene. It is a cessation of movement – the motion in my body comes to a gentle standstill and my thoughts follow suit, suspended in utter stillness. I know I’m probably not alone in this, as more than one pair of eyes is drawn magnetically to the lush green “sea, vast and wide.”
We hesitate to speak, to upset the center of balance in the silence of the meadow that perches with nearly visible grace in the air around us. But once we’ve made our way down the hill, onto the wide path that fringes the meadow, a certain delight swells up and the presence of soul friends proves too much even for that blessed silence to bear. Conversation begins, softly at first and then, without our noticing, more comfortably audacious.
(Monastery Summer 2010, post 12)