Saturday, June 29, 2013

Back from the Woods

I'm back from Pacem in Terris and I had a very peaceful time.  You can click through to their website if you'd like to see pictures (and it might make it easier for you to understand the place as I write about it). 
As I said, it was peaceful.  There was one big problem and I'll write about that up front.  The problem?  Bugs.  The weather for the past six weeks has been very wet and for the past couple of weeks mostly hot.  It's been the best possible breeding weather for insects and boy howdy, they've taken advantage of it!  This meant mosquitoes, spiders and even some cockroaches.  I have rather a large fear of bugs and it took me at least a full day to get over a panicky feeling that they were coming for me.  (Going to sleep the first night was rough.)  By the second morning, they were more a part of the environment for me.  If I'd been there a week, I probably would have named the roaches.
As to the place itself, the people could not be nicer and the cabins are quite nice.  I was greeted at the main building and had a short interview with a staff member.  She had suggestions on how to find peace and was very clear that hermits were on their own and weren't being judged.  Then I was driven to my cabin (maybe half a mile from the main building) and shown around it. 
You may want to consult a picture from the website now.  The cabin I was in was named for Catherine of Siena.  Each one has the same layout, one room with a bed and rocking chair and a large picture window.  On one side is a screen porch with another chair.  The cabins are private from each other and hermits are urged to be quiet and not disturb the others.  My window looked right out at a forest.  There were constant birds and on the last morning there were three deer between my cabin and the biffy!
The cabins are without electricity and running water.  I was given three gallons of clean water and I could have asked for more if needed.  There was a propane heater and a propane lamp.  I also lit candles.  The staff gave me a basket of bread, cheese and fruit (and I brought some stuff of my own to eat).  The main building is open from 8a to 8p every day.  You can hike down there for a private shower or to use the exercise room.  (Or to benefit from the a/c!)
Each day at 530p, guests can attend a dinner at the main building.  I did both days and they were some of the highlights of my trip.  On Wednesday night I met a young seminarian who is studying at the Vatican.  If they let me study at the Vatican, I'd strongly consider becoming Catholic myself!  I also got to know a couple of priests.  I enjoyed hearing them talk shop and they were patient with my questions about Catholic hierarchy.  I also met a married couple who were retreating together.  After dinner, they kissed each other goodbye until supper the next night and went back to their separate cabins. 
Pacem in Terris is a Catholic place but I never felt particularly pressured there.  They mentioned that a large number of hermits come from Bethel college.  I couldn't recite along with the prayers before and after the meal but that wasn't really a problem.  In fact, it was inspiring to be with genuine believers. 
I may go back, but if I do, it will probably be in a less buggy season.  They said that October is their busiest time.  The pictures in the winter look stunning.  If it sounds interesting, then I'd highly recommend it to you. 
I went looking for peace and quiet and I got two full days of it. 

1 comment:

DD4 said...

I'm so happy you got to have this experience, Peder. I loved talking to you about it earlier today. It's important to take some time off to slow down and reflect. I liked this post very much.