meaningful mondays: carmel in brown, still brilliant

I have to admit, dull as it may be to some, brown never bothered me.

Maybe because I was stuck with the color. Being one with brown hair and eyes, I knew I had to make the most of something that would be with me all my days.

Oh, I do love rich colors and vibrancy, and I knew that my return to the Carmel of Mary monastery this time of year wouldn’t be the same as I’ve known it before. And yet I wanted to experience this place in its brown season, too. I knew it would bring its own surprises, and that it did.

The first and most startling one was that I have never visited here at a time when darkness descends so quickly. So when the dinner bell rang Saturday night and I scurried out to the porch of the guest house, I was taken aback. It seemed the porch light was not working and with no city lights to guide, and only dim lights from within the monastery itself, there was a span of road in between that was as black as I’ve ever known.

I’d heard stories of some of the Guinea hens being ravaged by night animals, and so I knew there was nocturnal wildlife about, perhaps hungry as winter draws near and looking for something juicy to sink their teeth into. Yes, the imagination of childhood came alive and I panicked, finally remembering that my cell phone could provide at least a dim light.

I have never felt fear at Carmel until now, but the suddenness of my discovery and not wanting to be late converged, letting emotion take hold. It’s not a long walk so I figured it would be okay, but there was a moment of wonder, of fear, of feeling very alone.

Then, when I got to the dining nook, along with my meal, an object stood out — a flashlight that is more like a flash beam, and with it, a note saying I’d probably need this to make my way in the dark.

Then, a warm meal to assure me I was in safe hands.

Later, I went to evening prayer, or compline, and listened to the nuns chant their prayers to our good God. I joined them when they got to the litany and on some of the other familiar prayers, too. It always is, and was this time, a beautiful experience, the epitome of restfulness and calm.

On the way back, my beam light in hand, a very light rain fell onto my path, gently misting my face. I began to cry as I moved, not from fear now but happiness — a spontaneous and very deep response from absorbing the gift of being back in this blessed space.

The next day, I stole out with my camera for a bit to capture the beauty of brown, of Carmel in its fall garb, readying for winter.

Just as I’d hoped and suspected, in all seasons, Carmel is brilliant.

If I were never to return, though I hope I will, I want to remember this feeling of having come through the dark, filled with assurance and gratitude, and most of all, overwhelmingly, loved.