I have been to Carmel of Mary Monastery in every season, but this was my first of late-fall, early-winter.
When I arrived, she greeted me in golden hues, and I was smitten all over again.
A favorite treasure from this visit; the horse and its habitat. My friend Vicky, who often accompanies me on my writing retreats to Carmel, couldn’t come this time, but she was with me nonetheless. And especially when I wandered over to this corner of the grounds. This horse and her have a special thing between them, and when he looked up at me, I sensed him wondering why I had come alone. I was able to bring this visual back for Vicky, though, and I know it meant something to her.
Always, I discover something new. This tree and its crazy “beans” that first day that had me thinking, from a distance, that they were fallen bark, caught me for the first time. Something about them reminded me of the flying monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz.”
My fingers were cold as I snapped these shots, but they were about to get even colder.
That first afternoon, the river was still, but not completely frozen.
The second morning came early, as it does at Carmel. Mass at 7 means rising before the sunrise, and slipping into the chapel in the dark.
I couldn’t see then what treat would await me just an hour later.
It was hard to catch from my camera lens without a wide-angle option, but it was magnificent, truly, to see the grounds all dressed in frosty white.
An afternoon walk showed a different side of the river, now, completely stilled and capped with ice and a thin layer of snow.
Despite my love for the pungent springs and glorious falls, who can argue that each season has its gifts when seen from the Carmel view?
By the third morning, my last, things had changed markedly. More chill, less sun, but a display of hoar frost after morning Mass absolutely took my breath away.
Our Lady of Carmel in this form looked to me like a snow queen, in her usual white but now accompanied in white-sprinkled vegetation as well. I was touched, all over again, by her grace.
Even the front of the guest house with its crystal formations clinging tightly to its wooden railing pulled me in.
And as always, I felt ever so humbled by the sisters’ careful preparing of food — and the little extras they add to it that leave me tickled, and knowing that every dish is prepared with such love. Underneath this sweet, citrus-laden dessert, a lime and coconut cookie awaited…
I am a lucky girl, a blessed girl, to have a connection to this haven. I always have to peel myself away. But I return to the busy world a better person, I think. If only I could hold onto Carmel forever.
Today, as I step back into the world, I find myself immersed in the busy of life, and the happiness of a celebration — my and Troy’s 24th wedding anniversary. It has been quite the ride with so many twists and turns, but I am so grateful we’ve both hung on for the duration.
As you head into these days with family and friends, be blessed, and find ways to bless others if you can.