Sunday, November 7, 2010

Of Turkeys and Teenagers

No big thing to reflect on this week. Just a couple of small happenings that helped make up the fabric of the week.

We have a flock of turkeys on our land. There are 20 or 25 of them and they live in the woods just at the edge of our property and love to feed in the meadow which is below the monastery, between our buildings and the river. In fact, we have a perfect habitat, because turkeys like to live at the edge of wooded land, with a large field available where they can get the grasses, grains, berries and slugs and other small creatures that they feed on. We see them mostly in the mornings and evenings, and our guests love to watch them making their way across the meadow, pecking at whatever they can find.

I saw them one morning, going slowly across the field as usual, and didn't think much about it. Then about a half hour later I went over to the Guesthouse and I was walking outside, on the river side of the buildings, and passed below the Little Cloister. As many of you know, our monastery is built in a U shape around a large old oak tree, and this makes a small cloistered space in the center of our buildings, with the Guesthouse on two sides and the Church on the 3rd side. The 4th side is open to the river. And there in the Cloister were the turkeys, all 2 dozen of them. It was crowded - they are BIG birds. They were milling aimlessly around, looking very much like a bunch of tourists who have just realized that they've gotten off the subway at the wrong station. Turkeys are programed to go straight ahead apparently, and the only way to get out of the cloister is to turn around and go back, which seems not to be something they do easily, and they hadn't figured it out when I came along. I stood there for a while, and they weren't coming up with a solution, and they also didn't seem to want to come in my direction while I was standing there, so I went on about my business. When I came back a few minutes later, they were gone - either into the woods or up the hill towards the road, I suppose. It was a nice encounter; one that revealed something about the lives of turkeys that I didn't know, and it's nice to get to know the creatures that share this spot with us.

The other thing I'm thinking about is the admission of a new Associate yesterday. Many of you will know that we have a group of Associates who keep a rule of prayer for their daily life, and who promise to pray for us and support is in various ways. There are in the neighborhood of 600 or 700 of them, and a substantial number of them are frequent visitors and some are close friends of the community.

The man who came to be admitted as an Associate this weekend has been known to us for quite a while. His father is a deacon who is also an Associate of many years and a good friend of the community. He came with his son for the ceremony, and they had with them some of the next generation - the new Associate's son and his nephew and one of their friends, all youngish teenagers. They had come to be with their father/uncle/friend as he committed himself to the ordered living of a spiritual life in association with a community of Benedictine monks.

It was a grand occasion. There is absolutely no missing the pride and joy of our new Associate's father in this step that his son is taking. And the kids have been an important part of the weekend in their own way. They hadn't been here very long before they were down in the meadow and then went on down to the river, where one of them fell in, so they started their visit off in good style. Yesterday they explored the Walkway Over the Hudson, which is the old Poughkeepsie railroad bridge, now refurbished and made into a state park, and they seemed to really enjoy that. And they have come to every office in the Church and to all the Eucharists, where they sit together on the first row - something that Episcopalians rarely feel comfortable enough to do. The community has sort of looked after them while they've been here, and whenever one of us asks how they're doing, they say that they are having a great time.

This is not an altogether unknown kind of experience. From time to time fathers bring their teenaged sons here to introduce them to a part of life that they find valuable, and to let them know that the living of a spiritual life is part of what it means to be a man. Some time ago we had a man who came for a weekend with his 13 year old son because, he told us, his father had brought him here when he was 13 and he has never forgotten it. Our society doesn't have much in the way of formal coming of age ceremonies for either boys or girls, so people have to make them up on their own, and it is a great privilege to be part of that growing into adulthood when we get a chance. It's also great to be part of a weekend that you know is forming memories that are going to last a lifetime.

There there it is - a week of sun and clouds, prayer and work, monks and associates, turkeys and teenagers. All part of the Benedictine life and all lifted to God in praise and gratitude.

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