• Tag Archives Blue Cloud Abbey
  • Tech Savvy Milbank

    Imbolc                                          Waning Bridgit Moon        Blue Cloud Abbey

    Since I plan to spend most of my time writing, I brought one of my split keyboards which make typing much easier for me.  Only thing.  It had an old fashioned pin style plug-in.  I have a USB exclusive laptop along.  Sigh.

    Got on the web and discovered a Radio Shack in Milbank, only 13 miles back toward Minnesota.  They were redesigning the store tonight, so, though they would have been closed otherwise, tonight they were there.  After supper, I drove to Milbank, had a nice chat with the clerks and the owner, who offered me a beer, bought a new keyboard–they couldn’t find the adapters due to remodeling–and schlepped back to the Abbey.

    When I pulled up in the Abbey parking lot, I opened the truck door and the bells started clanging.  7:30, time for Vigils.  Scared the B…well you know, out of me.

    So here I am, typing on my new keyboard, ready to get up tomorrow and start writing more pages of Missing.  The Abbey is a peaceful place, set high atop a prominent hill in an otherwise flat topography.  As a result, you can see for miles.  At night Milbank twinkles off to the east and farm houses dotted across the prairie are outposts of electricity, television, the modern world.

    What would Per think?

    The meal was in silence tonight and Brother Bennet read while the rest of us ate.  Another Minnesotan is here, a woman, and me.  The monks were all in black robes and cowl tonight.  I don’t know what signifies, but I’ll ask  tomorrow.

    The drive out here is a long one, over 4 hours, and I’m tired.  Early bedtime tonight.

  • A Novel. Again.

    Imbolc                                           Waxing Bridgit Moon

    Signed up for 8 nights at Blue Cloud Abbey, Feb. 28 to March 8.  My goal is to push Missing at least to the 2/3rds mark for a rough draft, maybe more if I get on a roll.  I’m considering getting up into time for the early morning prayers, 6:45 am, just to get the day started and feel that living connection with the 5th century.  Since Missing has a medieval feel, an abbey carries a lot of that time in its essence.

    Missing is the first novel I’ve written that could, conceivably, be a series.  It has a range of characters and its rationale will make it easy to introduce new plotlines and new characters. In the world of fantasy the series has good traction, a way to build an audience.  Who knows?  Maybe this is the one.

    I do have two other novels, Superior Wolf and Jennie’s Dead, that are a good way along, too.  If this process works, maybe I’ll head out to Blue Cloud from time to time.  We’ll see.  There are, of course, those other novels:  Even the God’s Must Die, The Last Druid, The God Who Wanted It All and, believe it or not, two whose titles I can’t recall.  Each one could use a revisit, a revision.  So much work to do.  Glad I still feel excited about everything.  Life could get long otherwise.

    I’ve been at this, more and less, since 1992, so it should be no surprise that I have some production.   Several short stories along the way, as well.  Still, I’ve not pushed them out there, perhaps its fear, perhaps its indolence, perhaps its reluctance to discover my ability outside my own head.  None are compelling reasons, though all are, at least to me, understandable.  I’m back to the writing, wonder what it would take to get me marketing?

  • Back From The Cloud

    Imbolc                                                           Waxing Bridgit Moon

    The drive home with Frank is over.  We followed route 12 back east, away from Blue Cloud Abbey and the snow which had claimed a semi and an SUV on the road away from the Abbey, stopping only in Litchfield for a Chinese lunch, a buffet.  We talked as usual about many things religion, politics, women and family history.

    Another Woolly retreat has finished, our 24th by some counts.  The 25th will break with our two decade long tradition of late January, early February dates and move us into the last days of September and the first of October, September 29-October 2.  We hope this will encourage more of us to get outside, walk, hike, enjoy the weather and the place.  We’ve opted for our fourth retreat at Blue Cloud Abbey.  It suits our sensibility as a place dedicated to the sacred and brotherhood and is far enough away to count as a trip.  It also has individual rooms and prepared meals.

    We have also developed a relationship with the monks, two brotherhoods with different founding purposes, yet a common focus on the life of men together.  We explore different facets of common ground each time, this time the chanting with Father Michael and some time with Father Tom.  We will, I believe, prove resistant to their attempts at evangelism, hamfisted as they are, but not done in mean spirit.

    Now I’m on my study computer where I’ve just entered the upcoming activities from calendar, trying to spot the time to get back to work on Missing.  That will emerge this week, as I plan to get at least an hour a day in until I can squeeze out more.  I may still go back out to Blue Cloud for a quiet and solitary place to write.

  • When the Bell Tolls, It Tolls For Me

    Imbolc                                      Waxing Bridgit Moon

    Here I am, a heretic beneath the bell tower of Blue Cloud Abbey, sitting at this mobile scriptorium, pecking away at the keys.  The bell tower rises outside the window, a jet passing by, contrail at an acute angle toward the north, a metal angel streaking like Icarus toward the sun; a sun, obscured early by the western wing of the retreat center, that this morning draped a bloody red-orange mantel over the far horizon, visible for miles from this point, 900 feet above the floor of the otherwise flat prairie.

    When the bell rings, which it does every quarter hour once, every half hour twice and the  number of the hour on the hour, I fly on the time machine of sound back to the middle ages when the sound of the bell determined the compass of a parish, all within the sound part of the same community, an aural community, knitting itself together every half hour.  These days, these latter days, these 21st century days the bell could not be heard over the rumbling engines of trucks bearing cookware, basketballs and note-book paper, cars scurrying here and there with people, like small loud beetles set loose on the hardened surface of mother earth.

    How do we know what community we belong too, now, now the bell’s sound has become muffled?  Could it be that this very medium (there goes the bell, ringing 3:00 pm), these bits and bytes that travel from this prairie monastery, constitute our new bell tower?  A quiet sound heard world-wide, making us one people, one community, one pale blue marble in a vast ocean of airless space?

    We ate lunch today with the monks in their lunchroom, a wide, long room with the animals symbolizing the gospels painted on a mural, done in a style reminiscent of Northwest Coast Native American design styles:  an ox, an eagle, a lion, a winged human.  Some of the monks wear the black robe, others blue jeans and sweaters.  Some of the monks have become stooped by age, while others, younger, would not be distinguishable from any one at the counter of a Marvin, South Dakota coffee-shop.  I had spinach, a vegetable medley, two peaches and a bit of tuna salad.  Fare fit for a simple life and just fine with me.

    I find myself wanting to come here by myself, perhaps for two weeks or so, to concentrate on my Latin, on finishing the novel I’ve already well begun.  Perhaps I will, one of these days, if Kate’s ok with it.

  • Contemplative

    Imbolc                                Waning Cold Moon

    Ancientrails hits the road again this afternoon for sunny eastern South Dakota, high above the plains.  There I will reside, for three nights, in a local instance of a 1,300 year plus institution, the Benedictine Monks of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s interesting to me that the international website for the Benedictines has St. John’s in Collegeville as its host.  I have always found the monastic or even the hermetic life appealing which is why I eventually made my peace with Andover and its relative seclusion.

    The quiet, contemplative atmosphere encouraged by monastics the world around and in various faith traditions serves a calm heart to a frenzied world, a place to which we can retire if we need.  I’ve had a long stretch with no regular  contemplative or meditative practice, this weekend I plan to enter a new phase, one appropriate to this time in my life.

    Aging itself requires a contemplative spirit, an accepting spirit for the challenges that it holds include the inevitable and long shunned confrontation with death.  (Ironic note:  In the midst of this thought I got a robo-call from Congress Michele Bachman which I allowed to trigger upset.)

    Kate and I need to check our answers for Chapter 2 right now.  Back at ya.

  • Floating Away to Blue Cloud Abbey

    Imbolc                              Waning Cold Moon’

    Last day at home until Sunday.  Headed out to Blue Cloud Abbey, where Kathleen Norris wrote at least two books.  The Abbey’s buildings are 1960’s modernist, most like public elementary schools, save for the Abbey church which has some panache.  The Abbey church, the guest house and the monastic facilities sit on the highest point for miles.  After sundown, the lights of small towns faraway twinkle.

    I’m looking forward to an actual retreat with some quiet time spent on meditation and my own spiritual path.  I haven’t done one of those in a long time, too long.  Love is on my mind, right now, so I’ll plan to spend some contemplative time with how it is in my life and how I offer it to others.  This Valentine’s Day, my 63rd birthday, feels like a spur to thinking about love, a bit unusual for me since I’m normally focused on my birthday.  Anyhow, I have a new Parabola focused on love that I’m taking with me.

    Woolly Brother Mark Odegard has taken his magic bus to the shores of the  Pacific Ocean outside Puerto Vallarta.  His journey, a pilgrim’s really, takes him where his vision beckons.  I admire his willingness to open himself to the world and to others, a life lived embracing life.  Very Zorba.  And Zorba is one of my heroes.

  • Monks and Prisoners

    An interesting Christmas note to my brother Mammoths from a monk at Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota



    Thanks for those elegant photographs, Jim. As much as I hate winter, I have to admit a work of art when I see one.

    Recently I went to a meeting at the prison in Appleton, Minnesota. The facility is closing the first of February. At present there are only 230 inmates in a building that can  accommodate 1500. I suggested to the inmates that maybe they could finish out their sentences at Blue Cloud Abbey because we have plenty of room and so few vocations.

    One of the guys asked his fellow inmates, “Would you like living with a bunch of old monks?” One of them answered, “It might be better than  living with a bunch of old convicts.” Some people think the prison will reopen soon because crime is increasing. Monks are decreasing but convicts are increasing.

    The cat just came into my office. This fall someone dropped off a cat and fled. Brother Chris has assumed the care of the winter-sol-2cat.  It lives in the garage but when doors are left open, Da Cat (that’s its name) strolls down the ramp and into the house.

    A Blessed Christmas to you and yours (and stay out of the blizzard)!


    (note:  these pics are by Woolly artist Jim Johnson who does not know whether he is a falcon, a storm or a great song.)