It wasn't my first "silent" retreat. I've been to a retreat center where there were lots of other people in dormitory style rooms, eating in the same dining hall, and sharing the grounds. Some of them were silent, others weren't. That presented a different kind of challenge to be silent, but you were never far from the sound of people talking and laughing.
Last week, I went away to Christ in the Wilderness, 80 acres of forest, meadow and prairie with 3 hermitages and a main house. The only sounds were the birds and wildlife. No cell service, tv, radio, or wifi. I brought in all my groceries with me (and way overestimated how hungry I would be), and prepared my meals in the small kitchen. After climbing a hill from the grassy parking area, I had 50 steps up to my hermitage:
Thankfully, Sister Julia has an ATV that she used to shuttle me and all my stuff up the hill!
Another climb up from my hermitage, and there was this perfect place to read, pray and enjoy my morning coffee each day. The sun-warmed, morning peace was such a gift.
My final evening, I stayed up there to watch the sun set. It was a glorious sight, and the only reason I was able to tear myself away was the fact that I had a rather dark wooded area to walk through in order to get back "home". There was nothing in the woods that would harm me, but this "city girl" didn't want to hear anything that went bump in the night, because my imagination would have taken off!
In the safety of my hermitage deck, I loved reveling in the night sky, and seeing things we never get to observe in the city. This was taken a day after the "super moon". The previous night it had been overcast, but it was still a glorious sight a day later.
And the STARS! It's unbelievable how many there are up there! This photo doesn't begin to capture the majesty of the night sky, but it sure is a lot more than I've seen in a very long time. And I even saw several shooting stars!
There was a very busy bird feeder in my yard. What a joy to sit out in front of my hermitage -- reading a book or working on a art project, and look up to see the little creatures flitting about to their heart's content. It's the first time I ever saw a rufous sided towhee:
and a tufted titmouse!
I learned to recognize many of the birds by sight as well as the sound of their call. That's a gift of solitude.
I also learned what wild turkeys sound like as they amble through the underbrush. You could hear their comical little clucking noises from all directions. And sometimes they came and visited me, but always left as soon as they saw me, no matter how still I sat.
Each day there were new delights to discover: