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April 06, 2011


Beth, this has been a wonderful journal of your retreat, so beautifully described and intensely felt as well as sharply observed. You have a real gift for this kind of...what to call it?...Spiritual reportage? I can't help wishing that you would put together a whole book made up of many such essays, accompanied by your drawings.

It's interesting to note how modern psychology has filtered into contemporary religion and the interpretation of Biblical texts - for instance the questionnaire sheet about the Jacob stories. I've just been re-reading Jung's autobiography (Memories, Dreams and Rreflections) and so much of what he says about archetypes etc. is relevant to this.

Dear Natalie, thank you so much for this comment and your encouragement. I'm glad you've enjoyed these pieces. It seems important to me to try to convey such things, because they are so off-the-beaten-track for most people today, and yet I think we all hunger for meaning and a spiritual, if not formally religious, dimension to our lives. There's no "right" way, and I hope my doubts help people see that I'm not recommending a particular path, but that my own life has been enhanced by this long quest.

I loved Jung's "Memories, Dream and Reflections" too! Good point about modern psychology and religion.

Recently I pulled out a bunch of similar essays, written in the years just before blogging, wondering if they contain the seeds of a book, and I was thinking of doing drawings or linocuts to go with them. I think they might work, if combined with some augmented excerpts from my blog. Would other readers be interested in that sort of thing, I wonder?

It's a grand idea for a book, especially since you can do your own illustrations... I like these; you are very delicate and don't rip away any veils. I think that is the only way to speak to a general audience about such things.

I've loved reading these, Beth. Thank you.

I was there, of course. I was sitting behind you, in the chapel, it was the only time during the retreat that I could entirely set down my mental (and paper) list of all that needed to be attended to. The rest of it was mostly Martha but I never resented anyone who was sitting! It was a joy to see so many of you free to be self-absorbed or taken with... whatever! When I came to the end of this third part of your essay my eyes were once more not dry.

Do the book, Beth! Don't deliberate about it too much, just do it!
Will there will be readers for it? Of course!
But those questions are just the sort of blocks that one puts in one's way in order to stop creative progress.
Take it from me, I'm an expert at setting up road blocks for myself.

This reminds me of a similar series written several years ago by a friend after attending a Vipassana course (that involved many days of total silence).

These notes retain and communicate much of the depth of silence and the calm it brings - thank you for sharing, Beth. And yes, there will be readers for the book!

Thank you for sharing a little of your retreat, Beth. Really, thank you - it was a gift, offered to me over these past rather fraught few days. You share it very beautifully and effectively. The sketch accompanying this last part is exquisite, perfectly in tune with your words. Just lovely. More. A book. Yes, absolutely.

You captured the retreat perfectly Beth. I have been on several silent retreats, but I felt the most blessed at the end of this one. Yes, please write a book and illustrate it. I love everything you write and draw or paint. Your picture at the head of the page captures that person perfectly. Has she seen it?

Hi Ann, thanks so much for the comment and for your encouragement. I'm glad to hear that this account felt accurate to you, and it's also very nice to know that this retreat had the same feeling for someone who has been on many with the same general group. / No, I haven't shown it to her yet but will, I think we're getting together next week.

Jean, Parmanu, Natalie, Marly, thank you for telling me you liked these posts and that you'd like to see more of this sort of writing. I'm working on a different sort of writing project right now, but when I get stuck or need a break I'll start thinking seriously about what I might be able to do along these lines. your feedback matters a lot to me - and carries plenty of weight! Thank you.

Vivian, you are both Mary and Martha, of course! And you gave so much to make this retreat what it was for the rest of us. Next time, we'll write poems...and you will be able to be quiet and calm!

At last, someone comes up with the "right" asenwr!

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.