Remember when it was a few months ago and I learned that the retreat I go on EVERY New Years for the past LITERALLY SEVEN OR EIGHT New Years was cancelled this year?
I probably told you this.
What I didn’t tell you is that it threw me into a leetle bit of a tailspin like, “Wait, what? Now what?”
Now what, indeed.
I talked to some people about it and there was this discussion where I was like, “Well, maybe I should just plan something?”
But then, in my head, I would be like, “But, this is a retreat for me, and if I need to plan it, then really it’s not super retreat-y for me, in the end,”
Which I would counter with, “But, I need to do something.”
Enter a couple o’ email chains with people like, “What? How do we fill this hole?”
And the decided solution was: walk 33 miles in a nice ol’ Michigan winter from Kalamazoo to South Haven.
Do you want tons of details on the phone calls I made and the walls I ran into? Probably not. Instead I’ll just show you some photos.
Hike we did. We hiked for three days–through sun and snowstorm and sun again. There was ice, there was mud…there were conversations had and songs sung and lots and lots of laughter.
The thing about memories is that: they’re really dang hard to relate, methinks.
Like, do you want to hear about the time we all sat in a too-highly-heated sauna of a tiny farmhouse and played Telephone Pictionary and laughed like everything we saw was the funniest thing that ever happened?
Do you want to hear about the time my brother caught a vole on the trail and he warmed it in his hands (maybe it was stunned by a snowmobile’s ski?) and named it “Martin” and walked with it for a couple of miles while we prayed the rosary?
Do you want to hear about the balloons that Hanna made or the way that we sang morning prayer or the discussion questions we all worked through?
It’s too hard to convey, maybe. Because how can you know what it was like unless you were there?
On Sunday, the first day of 2017, I woke up in this little room off of a lake that was dusty beneath the clanky radiators, and I thought about how grateful it was that (1) I had the memories of Marytown, with me, sacred and sweet and (2) that this was a happy replacement.
Julia had started us dancing after our midnight mass that rang in the New Year. In hiking boots and thermal layers-layers-layers, I danced with a small group of family and friends. We danced some Chaldean dances, some top-40 hits, some of the Israeli dances our mothers taught us when we were children.
Hanna had brought us images of saints, which we painted, and then selected.
My saint for the year is St. Moses the Black. (Here is a synopsis, but be warned that is has some foul language. Which is unusual for saint write-ups, if we’re being honest).
I thought about this in that little room.
And I thought that I was grateful that I had both, and that I could rely on those old memories, but make new ones, at well.
At the mass that started at 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve (before we started, Father Steve said, “Let’s all take a few minutes of silence to reflect. Reflection will be over when the first person starts snoring”), Father Steve mentioned in his homily that memories are given as gifts to us. He said that not only are the graces of a moment, then, confined to that moment. Rather, we can remember them again, access them again…and they fuel us forward into the future.
How lucky, then, were we to have this time of sacred, sacred memories.