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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.

 

Around midnight I woke with this dream:

Jesus comforted me.

And later:

A light-skinned young couple, devoted to each other, sits on a piano bench. His tapered fingers played the accompaniment to the Jesus hymn they sing, with full voice.

 This pair of consoling dreams empowers me to trust my old body’s continuing diminishment, one day at a time, until my last one. Practicing CPA’s Step I also supports this process with its emphasis upon cultivating an honest relationship with my body. Gentleness is also paramount.

The first dream’s consolation lingers as I compose this blog, despite having no recall of the story—just His loving presence. My spirit brightens; its joy, boundless, a foretaste of what’s to come on the other side of my last breath.

The second dream of the light-skinned young couple heartens me. From the depths of my unconscious comes multifaceted harmony of their genders, of their blended voices, of their willingness to be in relationship, and of their shared faith and trust in Jesus. And on a deeper note, the dream suggests more healing of my racial prejudice, if not its removal altogether. I have wanted this for long years, but have been unable to extricate it from my shadow, it being imprinted since childhood.

And the Jesus hymn envelops my spirit in bliss. If such overtures, fleeting as they are, attest to realities far beyond our kin, what must eternal life be? And we’re all headed there, at least that’s my understanding, like bees swarming to the golden hive. In the meantime, tonight’s dreams remain to be learned from.

 

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