Dispatches from New Mexico (pt 3)

Last Sunday, the first day on Hermit’s Peak, the mountain hail had defeated me. I came back to crash in town, and spent that night doing some soul searching. Eventually, I concluded, the much-anticipated outdoor odyssey for this week would have to be postponed. I deemed it better to spend this time in solitude, meditation, reading and writing, asking questions, and trying to listen to Jesus.

So after successfully climbing Hermit’s Peak on Monday, I headed west, circling around the Pecos wilds, and camped for the night up in the montane woods near Santa Fe. I passed the evening tending my fire and appreciating the smells, and there was a peace in my bones.

Early the next morning, Tuesday, I dropped down I-25 toward what would become my new home for the rest of the week — a monastic community in Albuqerque. I had arranged to stay in one of their hermitages for the next few nights, and was curious to see what I’d find there.

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What I found was really beautiful.

The Norbertine Community of Albuquerque is just a group of Catholic clergy, ordinary people, who have decided to live together in a communal covenant, and chase after Jesus together, and love everyone in the surrounding South Valley communities. The site is beautiful, with breathtaking views of the whole city of Albuquerque, and the Sandia Mountains above it. There are blossoming shade trees frequented by hummingbirds, and there’s an awesome modern library inside the complex, and a fantastically gorgeous little chapel where they hold regular prayer services and gatherings, and there are quarters for the one or two dozen people who live on site, and there’s a group retreat building, and finally there’s a small building off to the right that is the Hermitages of Premontre.

A hermitage is real simple — it’s just a super-efficient little efficiency apartment, maybe 250 sq ft, intended only for its occupant to get some creative, restful, spiritual solitude. It’s got everything one would need, and anyone at all can come stay at any time, on their own terms, with essentially no questions asked. You just treat the space nicely, bring your own food to eat or cook, and pay an extremely modest nightly rate. For that, you get a fantastic view from the middle of the high desert, in optional proximity with a dedicated community of people following Jesus.

So yeah, it was cool.

I stayed at the Norbertine Community for about 48 hours, but it felt like a whole week. I wrote and read a ton. I took walks on the meditation paths, talked with Jesus as I walked in endless circles through the tiny chapel open to retreatants, greeted hummingbirds every morning, watched the sun rise over the Sandia Crest, and basically had a big old sigh of a time.

There were not necessarily any blinding flashes of insight. Rather, I think there were some important seeds planted, or rocks that were overturned, or whatever. I’m not sure exactly what happened out there in that time, but it was real good. I am deeply grateful to that community, and I intend to stop by there again when I’m in the area.

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I believe that I got what I needed out there. I had a chance to spill out most of the stuff that has been rattling around. I got a lot of thoughts and questions out onto paper. I had some long moments of slow contemplation, the benefit of a schedule that has been completely cleared and unwound. I even, in small bits, got some words and some answers and some small flashes of insight. But, I’ll need some time to figure out what they’re all about, and what to do with them.

Around midday on Thursday, with some reluctance and dragging of feet, I returned my key to the reception office at the Norbertine Community, and got one parting northern New Mexican meal featuring hatch green chiles. Then, I began my trek back east, across the broad rolling plains of I-40, and back through the mesa lands that mark the frontier of the West, and back to the Motel Safari of Tucumcari NM. On this final night of my journey, I played on the internet and read some new favorite blogs, ate at a local diner, talked with the motel owner about her hopes for her little inn … and went to bed early.

Awoke at dawn on Friday, with a mind full of implications and new visions, driven forward now by the leap from contemplation into renewed motion. Drove out through the last quiet mesas of the West, and into a beautiful early morning on the high plains. Wind turbines, busy little Texas towns, two lane highways, and shimmering ideas pouring through my head.

I made it to Austin before rush hour, 550 miles later. Far from exhaustion, I actually felt renewed, ready again for life, and indeed refreshed.

Something must have gone right on the trip, then.

Thanks.

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