In September, I traveled to beautiful Cape May, NJ to lead one of my favorite retreats: Sacred Rhythms Writing and Movement Retreat (I need to work on scheduling another one soon, perhaps in Ireland!) An amazing group of 18 dancing monks gathered and we had a time full of joy, depth, and beauty together. We followed the monastic hours of the day with time for yoga, dance, and writing, so that we could explore what happens to our writing when we move into a more embodied place. What unfolds and flowers is always powerful!
Several dancing monks were willing to share their poems with our community and for this I am very grateful:
How to Be a Dancing Monk
—Jennifer Trently (poem and photo of St. Mary-by-the-Sea in Cape May, NJ above)
Dancing With Trees
The late summer heat
shimmers on my leaves,
my sap pulsing and throbbing
in my limbs,
Beckoning to you in the breeze,
come dance with me.
Set aside your trembling,
look deep in your heart.
I have been waiting
Standing strong for you
Feel my sacred life
in your bones.
—Mary Kerns, This Sacred Life (poem and image above)
Response to prompt: What is the boat that you are missing? (inspired by this poem)
What is the boat, what is the boat, oh my God, what is the boat? The boat is life as it unfolds, slowly, beautifully even as I rush about wanting experiences, wanting love, my dog sighs in his bed, loving the warmth of his own body heat reflected back and holding him in fuzzy flannel.
The boat is love blossoming everywhere in the obvious, in the unseen, hiding in crevices, in buzzing cicada songs, in flutters of wings and flow of willow branches, teasing in breezes and hints, in the color of pale blue climbing my split rail fence shouting glory, glory while I grab another bag to stuff full of things I might need on my journey. While I gather up supplies to ease anxiety or bring comfort, my husband’s eyes lovingly follow my movements in brown liquid wonder. While my heart aches for a sunset, a cup of hot chocolate, a cardinal, a sign that God is near….any damn sign will do in this hour of deep longing… I miss seeing how sunlight catches my friend’s hair and turns the white into strands of gold.
—Sharon Landis, Color My Soul (blog post excerpt)
What Do You Want to Remember from the Cape May Retreat?
The electric toothbrush, its absence mysterious
reappears next to the breakfast menu.
101 butterflies that flutter by–
monarchs framed by a single retangle of porch railing.
The lighthouse, white with a red top
that calls, here, here, here, from every direction.
The courtyand dance of chaos under Mary’s watch.
A simple rocking along with the waves, just out of sight,
The flap flap flump of wild turkey, lands so close, intimate.
Two swans flare feathers, intruder bird flies.
The circle of women, writing together,
The sound of the bell. Time to stop.
A line from what each monk wants to remember
written down by Johanna
how my body felt during the 5 dance movements
the praying mantis that seemed lifeless–
what we thought dead, resurrected
the dolphins leap
three swans fly, necks stretched
the smell of salt air
the sea that caressed me all night
A bird teases me as I turn around
the escaped electric toothbrush reappears by the breakfast menu
the slamming doors raise the hair on even a dead nun’s neck
lace curtains dance
the opening of sighs before dance
a great blue heron takes off, white swans lift away
the rush of autumn coming in
the clarity of the Milky Way, Sagittarius and Scorpio
the mirror dance of the lighthouse sweep
a healing from Mother Mary
Chicken Waldorf salad, two days running.
Photo by Johanna Rucker:
Sister monks, What an irresistible montage—your photos and words and portraiture. My memories of this retreat (at Grunewald Guild last fall) resurface, and I rejoice again in those images alongside yours. It’s almost as if I had danced with you. Blessings on you all. May the life you’ve immersed in together overflow in days to come.
Such a lovely compilation! This retreat was such a joy and continues to be a joy as I remember with fondness your calm and deep presence, Christine. It was pure joy (and some challenge of course!) to share a space that allowed body, soul and pen to connect with others in a safe, lovely community. This collection of writings and art is also a joy in my mailbox this morning. Thank you!