|The Guardian Angel of Mount Angel Abbey
As I begin to write, the bells begin to ring across the monastery courtyard. Between the bell tower and my window, a statue of a guardian angel stands in the rainy courtyard. I woke to bells ringing at 5:20. They have names, which I've already forgotten.
I came here on a mini-retreat, bringing my own bag of coffee and zero expectations. As a Protestant visiting a realm of Catholicism and monasticism, this feels more observational than participatory. I am partly here because I read Kathleen Norris' book The Cloister Walk, about her seasons spent at a Benedictine monastery in the Midwest. I made this reservation after finishing the book this past summer when I imagined the weather being exactly what it is at this moment: rainy and gray.
Earlier this month, I thought I knew the reason I was coming here, but that morphed to the real reason: to not need a reason. To simply take time away to rest for no other purpose: no multitasking, not even the justification of a tax-deductible trip—as most of my freelance artist-writer life is. I logged no miles driving here, even though I will spend this morning in the curvilinear, mid-century library looking through books on Saint Teresa for a current writing project. Therein the happy problem when your work is your love: what does rest look like?
The guardian angel stands, implacable, in the rain. I write like I'm trying to rest: with no purpose. I see the angel. I hear the bells. I drink my coffee. I stare at my socked feet, propped up on the squeaky bed I slept fitfully in. Soon, the library will open. Before long, I'll start craving not just spirit food but food for this body. Maybe I'll eat the kale-beet salad I brought. Maybe I'll walk into town and treat myself to spaetzle at the German restaurant. Maybe I'll fill myself with bells. I have learned to live with hunger.
The angel keeps watch. The bells will ring again soon.