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September’s scarlet crisped tips of maple leaves overhanging the asphalt road on our way to East Gloucester, Massachusetts, and the retreat house, a sacred place of cleansing silence. “And we didn’t get too lost this time,” said my buddy Pat, her pink cowgirl hat aslant upon her forehead, “not like other years.” It was 2014.

For miles, bracing wind currents from the nearby ocean and cawing sea gulls heightened our anticipation. It had always been the same: for thirty years we had left landlocked St. Louis, only to relish the Atlantic’s watery moods, at times like a fickle lover.

No matter that accommodations were spartan, the fixtures rusty, the cream walls smudged from retreatants’ luggage, the all-weather carpet stained, the acoustical tiles discolored, the mattresses lumpy, the casement windows corroded.

Of more importance were spirited retreat guides seasoned by life’s hilarity and tears, the retreatants’ prayer-weaving-mantle protecting scary descents into in our psyches, long hours of walking shady paths carved out from the surrounding forest, the boulder-lined coast affording multiple sits atop blankets, clam shells splattered upon sands with each tide, honey bees flitting around clumps of Queen Anne’s lace and goldenrod pushing through the sands. And chef-prepared meals energized everyone with New England cuisine.

Central to this experience, however, were long hours spent in meditation, relishing its fruit, and recording significant messages: always about conversion of heart. Within Love’s dream we were washed, until the next directed retreat.

At times, I feel like I’m participating in the directed retreat of my life, one that is moving me toward the contemplation for obtaining divine Love, the last meditation found in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I’ll know it when I get there.

As an aside, 2017 saw the opening of the new retreatants’ wing at Eastern Point Retreat House, staffed by Jesuits from the New England Province.

 

I’m uneasy with another corrective dream:

It is night. A former classmate hosts a lavish party. The commotion of music, chatter, shrill laughter, and tinkling glasses of bubbly wines unnerves me. In no way is significant conversation possible. Then, Rachelle, one of the guests, takes possession of the dance floor, with solo gyrations in sync with the music. Clown-like circles of rouge cover her pasty cheeks. A narrow black belt nips her waist like twine on the end of a sausage link, over which her red blouse and navy skirt jiggle in fleshy folds.

I cringe as I record this dream with its recurring theme: chronic noise of my own making that blocks significant learning from Higher Power, that plunges me in painful isolation.

As in other dreams incorporated in this blog, night suggests the culmination of the day’s activities, or on a deeper level, the end of time. With increased symptoms of my terminal illness an undeniable fact, such dreams warrant close attention.

The lavish party speaks of my being dressed to the nines, feigning smiles, and being miserably bored, not unlike attending such gatherings in younger years.

That there is a Rachelle in my psyche gives me great pause. Like the wildness of my obsessive thoughts under cheap carnival lights, Rachelle high steps, twists and twirls, claps ringed hands above her horsehair wig, yells piecemeal lyrics. There’s no stopping her. Her garish make-up, her tasteless attire, her aging body gone to seed, and her self-absorption—all revolt me. Yet, she reflects multiple shadow issues I’ve accumulated through decades of mindless living.

But Rachelle is also my teacher as I deal with the inevitable diminishment and death of my old body. It doesn’t take much to set off such protest-racket that further worsens my breathing.

Whenever Rachelle surfaces, I’ve work to do.

 

For the entire night, Jesus of the Gospels supported and comforted me. There are no words…

 

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