12/25/2013 -- C.C.I wish you were here with me, Caroline! I have learned so much this year. I have accelerated and then slowed down. I have failed and I have been made aware of my imperfections--I am not always reliable or kind or compassionate or selfless--and yet--all is well here, and right now--I have seen and known God more than I ever have, and that has given me the capacity to love better, despite all of my flaws. Everything seems to be more delightful, while mattering less, if that makes sense at all. There is more of a levity to living, even though I can also feel the gravity of each moment. I can’t recount to you all that has happened since we last saw each other, but I can tell you where I am right now.
12/25/2013 -- A.B.
We've been listening to Bob Dylan quite a bit on the road (actually, we asked friends to make playlists for us and each has been remarkable, but no one has put Dylan on their playlists!) -- such great traveling music, with a sense of awareness of everything around him and in the air, and yet he remains somewhat detached from it all. There's a wandering feeling to his music that you and I both know well, and then there's the storytelling, and the poetry, and the muttering, and the harmonica! It's been awhile since I listened to Bob, but every time Bob is something new!
How are you? How is the city? I love living in cities--but I'm not sure if it's good for my soul--it feeds the worst parts of me, so I need to get away often--to make sure I'm caring about the things and people and matters I want to care about--and not get carried away with the material surfaces of the urban simulacrum--if I'm allowed to call it that.
12/26/2013 -- K.O.
When we entered the chapel, the service was solemn and small--and it all seemed really formal--and then the priest, Father William, blew his nose, and I almost burst out laughing. I think the funniest moments are flukes--when something almost too ordinary disturbs the peace or flow of things--little awkward charms, situational humor, you know. I think you would have laughed too! Because everything at the abbey is so much simpler--quieter and emptier--the funny, awkward moments are so much more pronounced.
12/24/2013 -- J.R.
The desert is not so alluring or attractive at first glance--or comfortable, for that matter--but it is open and expansive, stark naked, so different from the city lives we're used to, where people scurry around, in close confines but so unaware of each other, unaware of so many sounds and places and faces that just fade into the background, become distracting noise--distraction from some other, seemingly more important focus, because we're always going somewhere and what's ahead seems so much more important than what's here right now. In the desert, your job is to notice, to be attentive. It is easier to listen to God, and when all else fades away, it's clear that we're here to love and be loved by God--it's so easy to lose sight of that sometimes.
12/24/2013 -- S.S.
Amidst this quiet, this empty space, this wide and free landscape, it seems that loving is all we were meant to do. The rest feels trivial you know? How we go about our ordinary lives as if we had to make them into something extraordinary, hurrying here and there but to what end?
Leaving most things behind, even for awhile, has given my head and my heart space to breathe. I feel relieved to feel, if even for a moment, unattached. And yet--here, this letter, a token of my attachments, a token of my love...our hearts and souls want freedom and also some kind of tethering. Blaise Pascal described men in three words: dependence, desire for independence, needs. Merry Christmas! I love you!