Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"The Community of the Holy Spirit is a monastic community for women of the Episcopal Church, and a witness to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. The Sisters loving service extends to all of Creation and [they] recognize Earth and all life as a primary revelation of the Divine."

The driveway is not very long, but it does lead to a different world. It wraps around the convent, and becomes a small parking lot and a path to the Longhouse where the guests stay. Next to the convent there is a chapel, very clean and white, in the shape of an octagon. Outside the chapel door there are tables (when I visited in the early spring) of seedlings. There is a greenhouse, not very big at all, and then the vegetable garden spread out below. Four or five fruit trees, recently planted, stand like awkward adolescents at the bottom edge of the garden. There are chickens in a chicken coup, and ducks who live by the side porch under a big black umbrella, and one chicken who thinks he's a duck and stays under the umbrella too. The two cats are simply divine and perch on a rock over the whole domain, overseeing their minions like lions on the savannah. They do not see the dog, however, who is needy and sometimes a bit desperate, though he does get his love. The Sisters found him abandoned on the side of the road, and he still, two years later, heartbreakingly perks up when any white SUV passes his way.

There is a water catchment system from the roof of the front porch. The front porch itself is hectic with pots for this and gizmos for that and the jugs and tools required for the maple syrup that the Sisters collect from trees in the woods and around the road, and distill, and sell at the farmer's market.

We had a lovely lunch the day I arrived. Root vegetables brought up form the cellar where they had been stored all winter and roasted, and corn souffle, and the most wonderful berries in homemade yogurt. "I love the burdock most," said one lunch companion. "They way it sort of grows like a monster, with its little hairy fingers coming out at you..." she squished her face to imitate it. The convent house---its country-house kitchen, scrubbed floors, floor-to-ceiling shelves of books---is peaceful, quiet, and full of grace and humor. It feels, in the best possible way, that time has suspended; that the "simple life" that so many dream of is actually right before us. There is a strong sense of balance and harmony with nature; and a direct, personal dependency on and respect for the Earth.

I think we were talking about Mary Oliver's poem about listening to the corn grow when a Pepsi truck accelerated up the driveway and passed the dining room window. No one looked up or commented. Because you see, this place where time is suspended, where a small community
relies entirely on their own garden and animals for sustenance, where there is still time for contemplation and prayer (integral to every day) despite the hours of work everyone contributes to survive---all of this peace and harmony and frontier-like spirit is only one stop away on the Metro North from where John Cheever wrote of the agonies and joys of New York elite suburban living.

Across the driveway from the convent house is a school, apparently with a Pepsi machine, and every morning and afternoon, SUVs rush up and down the driveway. BMWs race along the country road by the house (I went out for walk and had to turn around). And nearby, the average listing price for a home is 3.5 million dollars.

It is the bold and daring and strong who go directly to the center of things and there, tend to their gardens and respect their own contemplation, Harmony and sustainability, right in the midst of these modern times we live in.

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