Monday 26 August
Arrived 3:30-ish, after 5-hour drive from Atlanta, where I’d spent a week helping Lily get to know her way around Emory and environs. The drive was traffic-free but pretty bland, Georgia, then South Carolina. Only at the end, off the interstate and on local roads, did it get interesting–live oaks, Spanish moss.
Greeted by Father Guerric, the guestmaster. Short orientation walk for me and the only other retreatant, a man in his late 30s or early 40s who lives in Summerville, SC, which is so close by as to be completely ridiculous. He’d been to the abbey before, and was garrulous about how he didn’t remember anything from his previous visits, when he’d just done what everyone else had done, when they’d done it. He thought this was a good week to be here, since where he comes from all anyone wanted to talk about was SC-NC football rivalry (which he brought up). When Father Guerric asked me how I’d heard about the abbey, and I mentioned my friend M.S., my retreat-mate, whose name I quickly forgot, wondered if M.S. was from Charleston. When I said no, Chapel Hill, my r-m said he knew at least four people with the same name as his, and that when he’d seen an obituary of one of them who was around his age, he’d been relieved that it wasn’t him.
There was a key in the visitors center office for another retreatant, a woman, but she never showed up.
Supper, at 5 pm, was bread and cheese and fruit. I told my r-m I hoped I wasn’t offending him but I was planning to have a silent retreat. He said no problem and noted that was very different from his past visits, when the retreatant dining area was full and presumably noisy. Father Guerric told us it was okay for quiet conversation.
I look a half-hour walk down the half-mile-long Oak Allée to the abbey gate and back, took a shower, read till about 8.30, and got into bed. It took a while to fall asleep, partly because of the sound of what I thought at first were frogs but understood eventually were pumps running throughout the night to deal with water that’s accumulated on the grounds because of heavy rains. I couldn’t find my sleeping pills, and woke a couple of times, but I was wakened by my alarm at 5 am, an hour and 40 minutes after the abbey’s bell had briefly wakened me.