It has been two months since I arrived to Holy Wisdom Monastery. I moved here because I wanted to change. I am not sure if the changing process has already started or not, but I am preparing myself. I am preparing the same way we prepare the land for winter. It is the advent of my life, the expectant waiting and preparing for the new, the birth of a new life.
There is a lot of excitement here at the monastery because winter is coming. We finished the work at the garden. First, we cleaned the garden—there are no more tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, squash, potatoes or bell pepper plants there. Then we took off the garden’s fences. After all there is nothing left that the deer can eat. In the orchard we picked all the apples. Then we prepared the land for winter. We covered the ground under the trees with mulch. The prairie needs a lot of preparation too. We have collected seeds, tons of seed; it is work that needs many hands to be done. And at the prairie seeding day, we spread seeds in a new area, so in the spring the seeds will be ready to grow. Thanks be to God the monastery has a lot of volunteers to help with this job, otherwise it would be almost impossible to do it.
All this winter preparation is completely new for me. In Mexico all I needed to do was to add some sweaters to my wardrobe and I was ready. In Houston I saw snow for the first time in December 2009. For a couple of days the city wore a beautiful white dress. No need to tell that I was freezing. It was really cold for me. So this time I need to take this preparation more seriously. But I am preparing in another way too.
I call this personal preparation, advent. Advent is the time of expectantly waiting and preparing for something. I am preparing myself to get out of La Noche Oscura del Alma or the dark night of my soul or the winter of my soul. Gradually, without being too obvious, I am preparing myself.
I feel safe and protected at Holy Wisdom. The rhythm of the life here helps me in my preparation. Each morning I do lectio divina; I read the psalms and meditate in what God wants to tell me that specific day. The psalms are not easy for me, but I continue reading them each morning. We also pray three times a day and do centering prayer twice a day. Is so difficult for me to stop my thoughts. Many times I need to remind myself: stop thinking, just concentrate on your breath, Paz.
Each time that we pray in the oratory, we sing a hymn, some psalms and a canticle. This would be awesome, if I had a beautiful voice or at least some music literacy. But I do not. Each time that we sing, I get distracted thinking first about the correct pronunciation, then about the meaning of some other words. Finally about the pitch, that is, trying not to mess up the singing of others.
The sisters ask the sojourners to lead prayer sometimes. This means singing solo—with my voice! Big problem if you have my singing and pronunciation skills, so the sisters offered me music classes with Lynn Lemberger. She is so sweet and so patient with me. Some days, it looks as if I am getting the pitch, but just when we are going to the next line, I get it wrong again. She hasn’t complained, not yet at least. When it was my second time leading prayer, it was not perfect. But nobody complained. Some people even told me that I am improving the pitch. (pictured above: Lynn Lemberger, left, director of worship & music, working with Paz on singing lessons)
Advent is the time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the nativity of Jesus at Christmas. Hopefully this means Jesus will be reborn in me. The preparation is not always easy, but I enjoy each minute here. And the day always follows the night after all.
Read this post in Spanish. Para seguir a paz en español: Preparandome para el Invierno
Read more from Paz in her blog series, Little notes from a prairie journey.