My writing desk at St. Benedict’s Monastery, Studium, Summer ’08
“You should have a good experience here. These halls have been hallowed by many excellent writers through the years,” she said, smiling knowingly, brightly.
The Sister’s words sent shivers through me. Her word choice of hallowed in particular struck me as unusual. Hallowed as a verb: to make holy; sanctify; consecrate to.
What an apt description, though, of a place like St. Benedict’s, which professes three realities as part of its monastic life: the love of learning, the desire for God and the commitment to beauty.
I feel blessed, indeed, to return to Studium after my introductory visit last summer. Then, I had only a vague idea of what I was about experience as I set off toward my destination into the lush greenness of Minnesota. This time around there are few questions, only eager anticipation.
Studium was founded in 1992 “as a creative response to the (religious) Sisters’ desire to use their gifts and professional training…(and) share their wisdom and expertise.” Participants of the program are called scholars, defined as “someone who keeps on learning, for whom thinking and finding things out and imagining and communicating are fundamental to the meaning of life.”
Last year, while being referred to as a scholar during my week stay, I felt wholly unworthy. As a mother of five simply looking for a summer writing refuge, I didn’t feel I made the cut. But oddly to me, I didn’t really feel out of place, either. The other scholars treated me as one of their own immediately, inviting me to dinner and gently coaxing me out of my room to explore the grounds and rituals of the monastery. Having experienced it now, I understand that I am, indeed, a scholar. In fact, every writer is a scholar, if a scholar is defined as one who thirsts for knowledge and has an undying need to continue imagining and communicating.
And so, another St. Benedict’s journey is about to begin. Unlike last year’s adventure, which I mainly processed interiorly, I would like to share this year’s experience with all of you. So, for my week’s stay, I will blog each day about my residency. My hope is that through my writing, you’ll have the chance to take a peek into the writing-retreat experience, and perhaps, if you haven’t yet, consider such a reprieve for yourself in the coming year.
We writers need time to live in the world and to absorb all that is out there. We need equal amounts of time to bring those experiences into ourselves to translate them into written word. We communicate the sights, sounds and smells of our world so that we might better understand that world, as well as ourselves, and so others might be inspired.
Please join me as you are able, and interact as you wish. I will arrive Saturday evening, and post each day until my exit the following Saturday. This journaling will take the place of my regular posts from August 8-15.
If you could go anywhere in the world to spend a week writing without distraction, where would it be and why?