So, last weekend I attended a retreat at Holy Cross Monastery - a wonderful place on the Hudson River in upstate NY, which was still frozen and snowy when we arrived on Friday. And I must admit I was a bit intimidated by the idea of visiting a monastery, but everyone there was very welcoming and friendly. I don't really have interior shots or photos of the building, which is about 100 years old, and lovely, but I did snap a few shots outdoors of the melting snow:
It was such a beautiful, inspiring place. The monks make incense there, and the faint, sharp smell permeates everything - even my own clothes smelled of incense when I returned. To me, the incense smells like cedar and South Texas, and Taos. The insides of the buildings were warm, creaky, book-lined, and cozy, with wheezy radiators and singing pipes, which reminded me of the lodges I stayed in at Glacier National Park. The chapel is a gorgeous, high-ceilinged place, and its simple white plaster walls with heavy wooden beams and wood flooring remind me of the missions in San Antonio. The photo I linked to, by the way, is from the Flickr stream of one of the monks of Holy Cross, and his pictures are amazing.
Above all, I loved that it was a place to be very quiet - from Friday night at 8:30 PM until Sunday morning at 11:30 AM, we were asked to observe complete silence. It sounds intimidating (and it was, at first), but the kind of quiet and contemplation this leads to was incredible. I was grateful for a holiday from chit chat and talking, and I know I was able to think about things, and interact with people in a way that I never would have done otherwise.
Each office on Saturday was dedicated to prayers for the people of Haiti, and in between services a monk was assigned to remain in the chapel and pray for the safety of the rescuers and survivors there. I was so impressed by the spirit of kindness that pervades this place. Oh, and the food was out of this world. I highly recommend it, whatever your faith background, as a quiet place to appreciate the beauty outside and re-connect with a spirit of calmness.