Saturday 1st. We discussed the final question preparatory to the house report, this time on formation. To ease the snow melt, one of the tractors plowed a path for drainage behind the guest-house. Later on, two barn cats explored the scene, and the smell of the earth.
Sunday 2nd. Brother Léo’s reservation book is just a little fuller with the approach of Easter. Jolene has taken on Glic’s cleaning duties in the Chapel, so this week we could hear her happily working away there, and smell the lemon polish scent which evokes the memory of the promise of an orderly tomorrow.
Monday 3rd. Evenings here are quiet, as you might imagine. After the dishes are done, the house takes on the mood which will last until daybreak. Brother Léo will read a bit in the scriptorium. Monks might pick up their personal wash from the drying machine. Steve visits the barn to check on things (animals, machines). Then it’s Compline. At night the feeling is like a mixture of waiting beginning and waiting at its end.
Tuesday 4th. Mornings these days are, Lenten reading together. When this breaks up at 7:10, each makes their way into the day and its activities. The renewed activity changes the feel of things.
Rogersville has its own three-bay car wash. A quick scrub of the Kia has revealed a little more damage, some plastic trim broken.
Wednesday 5th. The lake is of swamp water, its high acidity making it dark brown. This time of the year—end of the freeze—is the only time we see blue in it. It’s water from snow and ice forming shallow ponds of surface-melt on the ice. A bit like the patterns of a sandbar when the sea goes out.
In preparation for the busy planting season, farm machinery is tuning up and rolling around. The biggest tractor is a striking sight as it rolls by. The corn and hay harvested last year have proven plentiful enough, even with the bigger dairy herd.
Thursday 6th. Today, a guest wandered dreamily along the drive between the monastery and the lake, the area marked as reserved for monks. There is not much but a muddy farm road past the pavement, so this person turned around.
The rip of the chainsaw can once again be heard, as trees in the apple orchard get a bit of a trim. Inside the monastery, the upbeat voice of our accountant could be heard in the corridors. His draft financial statement is in the hands of those in charge as they review it, ask questions, and work together towards a final draft for us to see.
Friday 7th. A strange cat appeared on the lawn today, it was running around nervously the way intruding cats do. You’d think that with the extremely varied crew of cats we have already, some cat else could just slip in but it seems as though it didn’t stay.
The first geese are back to our lake. When you have not heard it in a while, that honk is kind of lovely. The geese do not need a lot of open water to start out, and that’s a good thing because from the second floor no open water is visible.
Saturday 8th. A few flies have begun emerging from inside the walls of the monastery. They make their way out especially through the casings of windows. The first of our Easter season singing practices took place this morning. For this, instead of filing out after Lauds, we sat down again as Steve took us through some of the singing for Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Sunday 9th. A quiet day indeed, and as always Palm Sunday’s one of the most striking liturgical celebrations of the year.
Monday 10th. The first guests who will be staying on through Easter checked in this afternoon. Simone our cook was on duty, serving up her mighty good bean loaf. Josh our geothermal guy was in today, and sorted out various small issues with the system. People are happily taking note of how spring seems to be actually springing.
Tuesday 11th. A few hours before dawn, a lone racoon walked to and fro around our back door. Ground hogs were spotted this week too: ever furtive. An eagle manoeuvered the air over some road kill on the 126. And one of barn cats was digging in Innocent’s garden.
Wednesday 12th. A guest, who is a maritimer, surprised me when he told me that as a teenager in the early sixties he spent summers at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. Walks with Thomas Merton and so on. He said the Abbot at the time, James Fox, having served on US submarines, knew a thing or two about the pressures of life in seclusion. The impression one gets listening to his account is of a community that was not only vibrant but caring.
Thursday 13th. About an hour before sunrise, the first bird sings. The song starts as though it had never stopped, not so much picking up where it had left off as rendering audible what had been ongoing silently.
Friday 14th. The photos from the Osservatore Romano of Bede meeting Pope Francis have at last arrived by mail. They are really good. The light is nice. Dom Jacques Brière the Abbot of Tre Fontane (who along with Guerric of La Trappe accompanied Bede) is a Parisian and once told me that in spite of everything he had to admit that the light in Italy is lovelier than the light in France.
Saturday 15th. We had three singing classes this week, two of them lasting a half an hour. These are also an occasion for Dom Bede to run through the upcoming ceremony with us. There were a few differences to the celebrations this year—guests having their feet washed at the mandatum, for one—the big celebrations having a different feel each year anyway.
Sunday 16th. Milder weather than in recent Easters changed the feel of the Easter Vigil, with its open doors for lighting the fire outside. A case of bringing in some spring, not some winter! Overall, celebrations had a peaceful feel, helped by a nice few guests. One guest is in contact with Dr. Ruben, the retired cancer specialist who helped our Maurice and Henry: he took a picture of Henry in order to be able to show him. Father Doris Laplante joined us for lunch and spoke about his plans for a cross-Canada bike ride this summer: already in training, he will begin his ride in Vancouver because heading east the winds should be more favorable over-all.
Monday 17th. Brother Stephan played a Handel piece at the Mass offertory. You can never have too much Handel. The brand new candles for Mass, along with the Paschal Candle, are striking alongside the colorful flowers that John gave us.
Tuesday 18th. Here and there, picking up tree debris from last winter’s ice storm was the order of the day, with people transporting branches, burning branches, running into the road to collect branches that fell off their truck.
Bede had a stress test on his heart today in the Miramichi and tested well.
Wednesday 19th. The travel book we have been listening to visited England during Lent, Scotland after the Resurrection. Mere coincidence? Readers, you decide. A guest left us a thank-you note written and drawn on a piece of bark she collected. Another guest e-mailed a nice thank-you note along with several pictures he took here. In Chapter this morning we discussed the draft version of the house report, which will be sent to the Generalate quite soon.
A friend called looking for a copy of the late Brother Anthony’s book Revelation of the Son of Man. Anthony was a hermit and third-order Carmelite, who lived and worked alongside the monastery for decades. A website (eliyyahu.com) gives details on him, and promises an expanded re-edition of the above-mentioned book some day soon.
Thursday 20th. Monks like us, baby we were born to read and now it seems we were also born to hear Bruce Springsteen’s story in his own words as we begin a new refectory audio book, Born to Run. The book has been praised by everyone, including novelist Richard Ford.
Friday 21st. With Bruce Springsteen ably taking us back in time to his childhood, the memory of his haunting father and son song Independence Day reawakens.
Saturday, April 22nd. Morning, all was quiet in the basement corridor. The employees’ digital time cards were in their rack next to the clock. The bucket for catching drops from the small leak in the ceiling was in place, a warning sign next to it. The kitchen door was open and everything was ready for the cook to begin his new day. It is a real country kitchen. As morning began, heavy white snow fell, a snow with no future, but beautiful.
Sunday, April 23rd. The lake broadens and narrows more than once but there is one point in particular where animals like to make their dash from one side to the other. This week a little animal did so, a long animal not built for speed whose determination to disappear into the forest on the other side was striking: it ran then slid on its belly a ways; ran, slid. It looked too big to be a weasel. What was it? As is often the case, no threat to it was visible.
Monday 24th. An ice-white lake greeted all eyes this morning; but by week’s end the water would be open and subtly sparkling.
Dom Bede commented two pivotal chapters of the Rule of Saint Benedict recently: the one on carrying through on impossible or difficult orders, and the one on not defending a brother.
Tuesday 25th. Brother Glic sent another nice message, along with photos from some of his itinerary in Italy: Casamari, Ostia Antica, Monte Cassino. There are also two photos with Glic taken at the Generalate in Rome. Bernardo, the Abbot General who preceded Eamon our present one, had an unstoppable sense of humor. Eamon for his part is remarkable for his smile.
Wednesday 26th. One of the new hymns for Easter sings of the disappointments and struggles of believers: ‘the dawning of your Day is slow to human eyes’; ‘where is the breakthrough, touch our hearts so that we can believe’ and so on, in French. It reminded me of monks now deceased who were rankled by anything resembling that in our hymns, and of Church friends who find the dense poetry in French liturgical hymns off-putting.
Thursday 27th. One of the hardware stores in town is closing. This was in the Co-Op store: Co-Op, liquor store, hardware store side by side. Hopefully we will never lose the Co-Op itself (a grocery store) as other rural communities have.
After lunch today Father Clovis brought out two jugs of frozen apple juice from last year’s pressing, to allow them to thaw. Father Innocent lit the wood stove in the green-house, though we’re at above zero outside now.
Friday 28th. Dom Bede presented his new edition of office books for vespers, which we’ll try out for a month. Psalms in English—half—are in this time. The array of responsories has been simplified, psalm antiphons, too. As well there’s a shorter Marian hymn for Vespers in Ordinary Time. Bede pointed out that the Marian hymn we’ve been using up till now, Sancta Maria Succurre Miseris, dates from a time when intercessory prayers were not part of the office the way they are now: the hymn supplies them.
Saturday 29th. Our youngest full-time farm hand has arthritis, and the near 100 percent humidity day after day this week has not been helping this.
Sunday 30th. After None, a friend dropped by and spent a short time with Brother Léo. With no guests in the guest house, nothing moving at all, the setting was a bit like a country cottage somewhere, a place of peace and laughter.