Thursday 1st. More snow—more complaining in town. This evening: the sound of the winter wind. Does it sound different because of the snow? Sort of a faint whistle.
Friday 2nd. On the farm, it has been necessary to spread liquid manure on the fields in the snow. Otherwise the sewage lagoon would be too full come spring. This has meant using the machine that normally serves for blowing snow this time of year to send the liquid manure flying into the sewage trucks, and plowing the snow with a skid steer.
Saturday 3rd. On Saturdays, some monks do their wash, tidy up their room. It feels a little quieter than regular weekdays. In the guesthouse, Brother Glic has arranged a crèche, visible when you walk up the steps from the front door. It is nice.
Sunday 4th. For lunch in the refectory, we listened to Murray Perahia’s new album, Bach: the French Suites, his first in five years.
Monday 5th. There is a big halogen floodlight fixed above the milk house door, to help us feed the calves pre-dawn. This light was restored to full strength recently, and it is quite a light in a setting otherwise quite dark. Across the lake at that hour one sees just a faint glow from Rogersville’s lights.
Tuesday 6th. A guest is here, as is often the case towards Christmas, she has the guest house to herself, mostly. We weren’t sure who it was going to be until we saw her again: nearly four years’ absence, someone from a ways away; it is striking how people do not forget and remain ‘in the loop’.
Dom Bede and Father Innocent made their way to Moncton today. They found Henry happily watching EWTN, and they shared lunch with him.
Wednesday 7th. Simone the Cook had our lunch well underway this morning, and has prepared Christmas deserts in advance: Tiramisu. The kitchen is styled a lot like everyone’s was a few decades back as regards the cupboards, et cetera, except it is a bit larger and has a quite large wooden counter in the center. There is a little shelf or two of cookbooks. Cooks like Simone improvise nearly everything, with excellent results. Out of curiosity, I asked her if any of the cookbooks were of use to her. She said the ones she likes best are a Better Homes & Gardens book series from the 1970’s, and a coil-bound home and school collection of recipes from Moms in Barachois.
Thursday 8th. Our guest took the train today after a week’s stay. For refectory listening for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dom Bede found a YouTube playlist of Italian songs and tunes in honor of Mary Immaculate; inno all’immacolata. He has also placed a physical copy of the book being read to us online in the refectory ‘Absolute Monarchs’, in case someone wants to refer to what they’ve just heard.
Friday 9th. Signs have appeared in the second-floor washrooms: Pease Help Keep This Room Clean, with a drawing of a little fellow with a brilliant smile leaning against a mop. I guess he represents the joy and ease of keeping things ship-shape. We’ll see how it goes.
Saturday 10th. The lake has begun freezing solid, and we hear the little boom.
Sunday 11th. At lunch we heard Kitty Wells’ There Must Be Another Way to Live and other songs from Miss Kitty’s years at the top, 1952-1962. The temperatures outside are dipping down but our oldest farm hand dresses lightly. He foregoes gloves winterlong.
Monday 12th. Late falling, leaves from the black maple tree have gathered loose above the snow around the door furthest east. This morning Dom Bede told us that Christmas morning Mass here will be at 8:30 this year. That is late enough in the morning to allow Brother Henry to get here, but early enough in the morning for Dom Bede to preside a second Mass at the Sisters if it happens that chaplain Father Clovis is not back yet. Late this afternoon, Bede determined that Clovis actually was on his way back.
The light over the Altar got some adjusting this morning. A twelve-foot ladder is needed to reach it. For now one of the two halogen bulbs is giving its all, the other fixture is finished. Soon a new kind of light arrives from China, a new fixture will house it.
Tuesday 13th. New books for the store have arrived. On the third floor this morning, the aroma of Father Roger’s tuna pasta had gathered. Mushrooms. Green peppers. Our usual cook cannot work this week, so Roger is doing some days, Maurice Gallant others.
Wednesday 14th. Brother Glic and Father Roger went to the Co-Op this morning to get the Christmas tree for our refectory, plus some of the biggest wreaths I’ve seen.
Thursday 15th. Brother Léo continues having dreams where situations he’s had to deal with over the years in the monastery repeat themselves, surreally. This week it was a huge celebration about to take place suddenly in the chapel, with people all over the place, candles not lit. Other times, he’s back in the barn, faced with work situations impossible to sort out.
Friday 16th. Dom Bede spoke to us about the special antiphons for the days before Christmas, the ‘O’ antiphons, and suggested that the music for these might have originated in the East, not the West. The exact history seems to be unknown. Later in the day, Bede was making the rounds of the monastery with a technician to check the phone system.
Saturday 17th. A friend has given each of the monks a box of chocolates for Christmas. Another friend says he will be bringing a gift of raw oysters next week. Yet another friend used to bring us Bavarian cream pies each Christmas; they were good!
Sunday 18th. A red Ford Focus is parked in front of the guesthouse: Father Clovis has returned, happy with the way things went in Havre Saint Pierre.
Monday 19th. Below minus twenty mornings mean a mist drifting through the barn in the wee hours, plenty frost on the walls too, of course.
It was time to go to Moncton today, with a chance to see Brother Henry again. People there discuss what the weather might do and what Trump might do in about the same way. In Henry’s room at the résidence, three monks watched and listened as his Skype connection transmitted the office of None. The connection sounds different from before; more amplified, though the voices and image were breaking up a bit. Henry finds we are sounding good.
Tuesday 20th. The third floor ceiling is leaking. Father Clovis has arranged buckets to catch the drops and is intrigued by the phenomena, which so far has baffled people. A new search for the cause of the intermittent leaks is forthcoming.
Wednesday 21st. Brother Glic went on a Poinsettia run in town today. The Co-Op had a sad selection, so it was to ‘Monsieur Tomate’ he turned. It was his birthday today, as well as being the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Father Clovis: we had two cakes at lunch. A good-hearted man, Clovis took his golden anniversary in stride.
Thursday 22nd. A guest is looking into his train booking. These days the train leaves for points west only two days a week. Tickets are sold at the village office, not the station any more.
A friend gave us a box of oysters from Bouctouche, some were cooked for supper this evening, some served raw.
Friday 23rd. The altar light is working sometimes yes, sometimes no. Our altar server Brother Glic is hoping that it will work during the 7 PM Christmas Eve Mass. We had a singing class this morning in preparation for Christmas Mass, also looking at a hymn we will sing at the Offices Christmas week, a hymn about the journey from dissemblance with God to resemblance.
Saturday 24th. The cows were full of life this morning, eager to get into the milking parlour. Was it because Christmas is so near? Henry says, yes. The guest house is also coming to life in a different way, as the festive moment connects various people. All paths seem to cross a bit easier at Christmas.
Sunday 25th. The altar light has been working, the incense, and aroma of meat pies have been plentiful, people we only see at this time of year appeared, guests went snow-shoeing, candles were lit at the tables where the monks eat and Father Doris from town described the meal he will be serving his Redemptorist confrères for Christmas, as he shared our table in the light of Christmas.
Monday 26th. It was a quiet afternoon here; the clouds were moving but you would have had to stop and watch to see it. A father and son dropped by to buy some honey. Maybe it was the son’s first visit, because he stopped and looked up in wonder at the guesthouse entrance.
Tuesday 27th. An old friend of the community has re-appeared for a retreat. He is a blues man. Seems even the blues aren’t what they used to be: he finds that live blues audiences are becoming rougher.
Wednesday 28th. A plumber is on retreat. Father Clovis asked him to look at some plumbing problems upstairs. Melva and Marila were by today to begin preparations for the annual employee supper, Friday evening. Thirty-five guests are expected. It is a one-of-a-kind evening. At table, we are finishing the last of the edible pine tree cake decorations with our deserts.
Thursday 29th. There is enough light from the Christmas lights in the refectory to eat breakfast by.
Friday 30th. With snow turning to rain turning to snow, no one came in for Mass. Then our friend Paul did appear. He comes to Mass here pretty well every day. As he sits in the back, for the sign of peace today he smiled and waved.
After lunch today, we moved chairs from the guesthouse to our refectory for the employee meal/party. Many were there for Vespers, and made their way downstairs.
Almost all the employees/spouses were present, with some new faces and, very happily, the faces of employees who have had health problems yet managed to be present.
Saturday 31st. Mass has been sung each day this week, unusually, and having a feast each day means offertory pieces on the organ each day—nice.