Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Visit to the Monastery

About 20 miles from my home, nestled into beautiful countryside in Conyers, Georgia, is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, a Trappist Monastery.

For 14 years I have heard about this place. I've known people who have done spiritual retreats there, and heard about the bonsai the monks do. I've always meant to go but never took the time as there are always other things to be done dontcha know. Maybe it's the fact that due to my Feng Shui purging of the clutter and making an effort to keep my house neat and clean and tidy on a nightly basis but this morning I woke up and there was nothing pressing to do. I spent an hour de-cluttering a bit more in the shed (I am doing this in bits and pieces), then another 25 minutes working on sanding my grandmother's kitchen table, recently inherited from my parents and in great need of refinishing. Then I showered and ate lunch and decided to go to Conyers.

What a joy - what a delight - what fun! In a very Jesus kind of way, of course - not that there's anything wrong with that. I immediately headed for the bonsai house and was amazed at what I saw. In Japan there was a man who lived down the street from me. He had maybe 15 bonsai, very old ones, sitting out on the curb on benches and once a week or so he would work on them. He always said "Konbanwa" as I passed on my bike coming home at night and I always wanted to stop and watch him but somehow it seemed like spiritual work for him and I didn't want to intrude.

Anyway, I saw some bonsai today so beautiful they almost brought tears to my eyes. These things have been trained with love and devotion. I saw juniper, ficus, bougainvillia, and my favorite, ginko. Ginko was the official tree of Urayasu city where I lived and I wanted so badly to buy one but they are pretty pricey. Also I don't have the best track record with bonsai. The ones I have purchased at Target and Lowe's have died sad, miserable deaths. So today I walked away with two small young bonsai - a jade plant and a juniper:

I swear I am going to read up on this and work to keep these things alive. The old bonsai, some of which were 100 years old, were up to $900. A bargain in the world of bonsai. Many in the $100 to $300 range. Many also in the $25 to $50 range. I walked away with 2 bonsai, a mud man figure, and a bonsai care book for a whopping $16.00 total. I told them if I didn't kill them I would be back. I'm just not going to spend $200 on a ginko that will die due to my ignorance, no matter how much I want it. Evidently jade plants are difficult to train but junipers are fairly easy. At any rate I am looking forward to this challenge!

After my bonsai purchase I wandered around the beautiful monastery grounds a bit and then headed for the Abbey store as it was hot as hell (ironic, ne?) and the store was air conditioned. There was so much to look at, from the tackiest of Jesus oriented decor to books about the saints to honey and fruitcake and fudge made at the Monastery. I got four frankincense scented candles and a serenity prayer card and then I noticed the cooler of holy water in a back corner. My Feng Shui book has many suggestions about cleansing the home of negative energy including burning sea salt and smudging with cedar and burning sandlewood incense but it also mentions sprinkling holy water. So I bought a little holy water container and filled 'er up. There was an old, hunched over monk working the register and he rang me up and I paid and then in a very gruff, gravely deep voice he said "You want these blessed?" The first response that came to me was "Will it cost extra?" Luckily I only said "Yes, please." He made the sign of the cross and mumbled something and then got out his little plastic container of holy water and wet his fingers and touched each of my items.

If you are interested in reading more:

I'm not a catholic. I now consider myself to be a loose non-practicing (very) low Episcopalian who dabbles in the study of Buddhism and is open to many spiritual beliefs and practices. I live in an area of the country where there is roughly one strip mall church per person (usually named something like "The Anointed Sanctuary of the Holy Warrior Missionary Church of Jesus") and where it is common practice for people to appear on your doorstep to "save" you and inflict their beliefs upon you. Among my friends are Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Baptist, Baptist, Baptist (I live in the bible belt), Catholic, Buddhist, Shinto, Unitarian, Athiest, Agnostic, Wiccan and Ja-ism. I love them all and have learned from them all. The point is not religion but spirituality. The point is having some sort of faith. The more important point is loving and accepting that just because someone has a religious/spiritual belief and practice different from yours does not mean they are condemned to hell.

Off the soapbox now. It was an entirely good day and so much fun! Now there are more thunderstorms moving in and I need to shut down until they pass. Luckily it seems our hot dry spell has passed and now we are having regular thunderstorms. Still hot, and with the rain also humid, but the air is cleaned so much by the rain and I appreciate every drop that falls!


Susannah said...

I think with this entry (just great!), and with my new title, "Sister Susannah, the New Age Nun," I feel comfortable enough to share my new blog with you:


gaga said...

You do realize Sister S that you have now shared this not just with me but with the rest of my vast international readership? I do know many will get as much enjoyment out of it as I have.