I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Beth Fritsch’s reflection on Going into Garberville:
Recently while on a silent seven-day retreat at the Cistercian Redwoods Monastery in Whitethorn, CA , I had a strong urge on the afternoon of day four to take myself into Garberville to enjoy an artist’s date in this quaint town nestled on the Lost Coast. The more I thought about it the night before, the better I liked the idea too. I found myself chanting soothingly, “I am going into Garberville.” Before setting out for lauds the next day, I read the day’s readings in my Give Us This Day. The gospel created an obstacle to my plans. “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” the challenge of the text boomed, breaking through as it so often does, demanding my response. It is not that going into Garberville is a bad thing, not at all. I am fed and my soul is nourished deeply by beauty, art, music, books, poetry and other artisans, all of which awaited me in Garberville. I decided to resist (who knew this trait could be put to a good use!). After all, I do have the essential freedom to “go into Garberville” with some blessed frequency in my life, praise God. And this phrase will now become a metaphor in my spiritual life. When I have the urge to “go into Garberville” I am actually longing for a dose of what comforts me most. Saturate me in the sameness of what I am used to! Give me the joy of what I have come to know as soothing and soul assuring! For me, the experience of going into Garberville is like taking a long, cool drink of water that quenches my soul spaces at a very satisfying depth. This gives me strength for the journey and sustains me over the long haul. To say that such an experience is essential to my soul life is hardly adequate or sufficiently vivid.
In contrast, the challenge to go deep, to head for deep water feels unfamiliar and the very opposite of soothing. But on this day, I hunkered down instead and the deep water pulled me in. Deep called unto deep. I discovered fears in my boat, which though I recognized them, spoke to me differently, less urgently but in a more pleading way. I also named my net and made a huge act of trust to cast my net into the very deep waters of my as-yet-unknown. This was not how I had planned to spend my day! Nonetheless, I was able to course correct, a necessary skill for any monk-in-the-world and to submit to the grace of the moment, an equally important tool of navigation.
Going into Garberville and heading for deep water are two compelling and necessary movements in the spiritual life of any monk-in-the-world. On my retreat, I discovered that both of these activities are necessary to live fully and deeply. It was the Word of God that pushed me out of my comfort zone on this day and dared me to spend time in my deep waters. I was already acquainted with my fears. What surprised me was the defeatist assertion that I also held very little hope of any yield to my benefit in this deep water. Fortunately, grace offered an opening for a course correction and a ladder for me to step up to receive this gift. I made a collage of this experience as best I could to memorialize this insight for myself. I also added “going into Garberville” to my spiritual lexicon. As for my deep waters, I am swimming here comfortably now. Having made my act of trust, I find it necessary to hang out in these waters for awhile to try find soothing comfort here as well. My net is strong and elastic, capable of holding ample bounty. Funny things, my fears, after being heard, are in the waters with me, swimming alongside me. My lack of hope for any yield in my deep waters has been replaced by a quiet assertion that this plunge is necessary and dynamically generative. I now remind myself to look for soul sustenance in places that at first seem unlikely. I feel the stabilizing soul-effect too of being able to enjoy both of these movements by the simple act of offering hospitality to each of them as they arise.
And you? Have you been to Garberville recently? Have you taken a plunge into your very deepest waters? I encourage you, dear monks, to respond to both of these summons with the frequency of joyful balance.
Beth Fritsch is a writer in community in Cincinnati, Ohio, a poet and a soul midwife and an Oblate of St. Scholastica Monastery – Fort Smith, AR.
Ah yes, “going into Garberville.” Like Beth Fritsch, I love doing that. For me, that means haunting antique stores, browsing at a nearby bookstore, or making a day-long journey to Ithaca, NY, for artsy stimulation. These activities frequently rejuvenate me, but sometimes I engage in them as a way to avoid writing, especially if I am stalling about beginning a new writing project (and here come the fears!). Thank you, Beth, for this wonderful reflection. Because of it, “going to Garberville” will become part of my spiritual lexicon as well. And I think it will also help me discern between times when perhaps visiting the deeper waters is what I really need.