as the wind whisphers through the trees...
That evening as we performed, the monks sat listening quietly, surrounding us with a deep, abiding peace and prayers of support. Often, when the first staccato harp notes rang out accompanied by Shipen’s strange, twanging sitar, people reacted with discomfort. Not at Gethsemani. As we played, I felt as if we were riding along on waves of compassion and love. A deep well of peace filled the room and I felt that I could finally relax and enjoy going whereever the music took us. Brother Camillus (as he had before) taped the concert.
The next day we gave a concert for the sisters at the Nazareth Mother House, then returned to Gethsemani for dinner and Compline. Brother Lavrans, a monk and artist in residence there, invited us over to his art studio, which was set near the woods by a small pond. Walking over at dusk, a soft orange light filled the windows against the evening sky and inside we could see beautifully painted icons lit by candlelight.
On the dull flat board
he stretched the cloth
tearing and gripping it,
till his knuckles were shiny and white.
Patiently, he pulled the material
tightly over the edges.
With all his strength
He hurled onto the canvas
the flesh and bones,
the long dark struggle,
the gnawing ache of failure,
the silent, weary vigil
washed with years of suffering
he threw the blood, the heart beat
the very breath of himself
into the world.
With the gentlest care,
He swept his brush along the page
painting the very essence of himself.
Pressing his warm face into the canvas
He stepped into the skin of a man
knowing every part of it.
The gnawing ache of birth,
the rough scrape of wood against skin,
the pain of nails piercing flesh
ripping open the veil between
heaven and earth,
He gave utterly and completely
God in man.
Giving, dying, pouring out all
into the creation
of an icon.
Passion (Palm) Sunday. Over three short days we experienced a sense of renewal and connection with the brothers that was deep and abiding. There was a special connection that ran deep between us.
It was April 16 and the weather was warm but drizzly leaving us feeling perplexed and our spirits dampened by this strange sense of humor our new bus guardian Raphael seemed to have. We made phone calls to Gethsemani again and St. Gregory’s seeking help and prayers for our predicament as the bus was being repaired. Meanwhile, the latest word on the bus was the engine would have to be sent to a machine shop to be rebuilt. We all prayed about this as David Lynch recounted our money and Shipen continued working on his book The Seven Story Bus. I caught up on journal/diary entries and each of us used the time for various chores.
Later on we called Larry R. at the nearby Baptist Seminary, which was just ten minutes away (is that why you stopped us Lord?) and he came zooming over in his new Volvo. He walked back onto the bus, which he had walked off only eight months ago, smiling and happy to see us. He caught us up on everything that had happened since we’d been apart. Larry was excited with all of the changes in us as we were in him, though Shipen said he sensed a certain “stoicism” in Larry’s adjustments at the seminary. Larry expressed his desires to be in a community again explaining that there was a certain loneliness in his solitary life. I found it healing to be able to look back together at what had happened to separate us and to reexamine why it happened and then let go of the bitterness. After drinks, dinner, long conversations and then Compline and a prayer service, we retired to bed, parked at the repair shop.
The morning came too early with the sounds of trucks, cars, mechanics hammering and horns blaring. After breakfast, Larry returned saying he still had a lot of unanswered questions. We continued talking with him and each other, and then began rehearsing new songs, which was a little strange in the unusual environment. We called Gethsemani and Brother Mark and Father Baldwin offered to drive over to pick us up and bring us back to Gethsemani while the bus was being repaired. Relieved, we finished rehearsing, then cooked a picnic dinner to take along with us. They arrived around 6:00 p.m., and we packed up our instruments along with a few belongings and all of us, including Larry, and headed back to the monastery. Sarah and I ate a late dinner in the women’s section at the guesthouse, and then went to bed.
This change of plans had us all shaken up a bit and we were disheartened to be losing our long awaited retreat in West Branch. Ariel, Larry, Shipen and Steven all headed out for a walk in the woods in the morning, others visited the cows, some of us practiced, and others took naps. The monks seemed pleased to see us again and said they hoped we could stay for Easter. After lunch, we decided on a scripture for Lavrans’ icon to go in the open Bible painted in Jesus’ hands so that he could finish it. We each spent a leisurely afternoon on our own. Then right after dinner, Father Baldwin and Brother Mark escorted us all down to Brother Lavrans’ hermitage for a blessing of the icon. Oh joy! It seemed that Lavrans felt compelled to work on it steadily ever since we left saying he just felt a “sense of urgency” to work on it right away. Then in the morning, when he looked out and saw us pile out of a van, he suddenly realized why.
Thursday April 19th was our last day at Gethsemani. It was a beautiful warm, sunny spring day so I went for a hike while others went swimming in the lake or visited the garden and statues of Gethsemani. Throughout the day, I remembered our Lord’s praying in the garden and his meal with the disciples during their last supper together. Alone with my thoughts I wondered what that must have been like for Jesus? Had he known what was coming?
Later, brothers Paul and Lavrans joined Sarah and I up at the guesthouse for dinner while the men ate with the monks. As usual, Lavrans was gracious and kind, and I was delighted to be breaking bread together with both he and Paul again.
It was raining lightly as Father Baldwin and Brother Mark drove us back to the gas station. There were more delays as the mechanics finished final repairs on the bus so we sat together inside the bus. There was a certain timeless quality about our conversation as the rain played a delicate staccato melody on the metal roof accompanied by cars rushing by on the highway outside. Somehow inside we were in our own haven of peace as we talked with Larry and our two dear friends.