A Retreat of Small Joys

This past week our community was on its annual retreat. Understandably changed due to Covid-19, we had no Oblates present with us as we usually would, nor did we have some of our sisters who live out of the monastery since the presentations were available online. So, it was even more quiet than the week’s usual noiselessness. An additional small retreat from technology made it even nicer.

Winnie Varghese, an Episcopal priest in NYC, presented our retreat virtually on the call to love and justice. She shared many stories illuminating the reality of racism in a very timely way, and there was lots of free space to spend in reflection.

I also decided that I would use my retreat to try to practice feeling like there was nothing that I “had to do.” When a little, annoying urge to be somewhere other than where I was arose, I tried to pay attention to that. Why wasn’t I content in the present moment? I, too, had a bit more time to notice small things, literally so, as I ran past the young grapevines.

I also found such delight in the way that the morning sun glistened through the trees, making it appear as though stars were twinkling in the sky between the leaves blowing in the wind; I thought about how I always expect to find God in big ways. Then, I read a paragraph from Eve Ensler’s memoir, In the Body of the World:
I was always reaching for love, but it turns out love doesn’t involve reaching. I was always dreaming of the big love, the ultimate love, the love that would sweep me off my feet or ‘break open the hard shell of my lesser self’ (Daisaku Ikeda). The love that would inspire me to give everything. As I lay there, it occurred to me that while I had been dreaming of this big love, this ultimate love, I had, without realizing it, been giving and receiving love for most of my life. As with the trees that were right in front of me, I had been unable to value what sustained me, fed me, and gave me pleasure. And as with the trees, I was so busy waiting for and imaging and reaching and dreaming and preparing for this huge big love that I had totally missed the beauty and perfection of the soft-boiled eggs and Bolivian quinoa.

And, for me, I’ll substitute eggs and quinoa for the tiniest grapes and whimsical starry trees.
What are your soft-boiled eggs and Bolivian quinoa these days?
Let us walk in the holy presence.