I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core. (William Butler Yeats)
When the going got tough, Jesus went. Went to the mountain, went to the plain, went to a place of solitude (whatever place was at hand), went at dawn, went to be with his Father, and with the stillness of his own soul.
People who know him well say that at the most intense moments of the struggle against Apartheid, Desmond Tutu could not be found. When things became crazed, when conflict became unendurable, he left: went on retreat, listened to the voice of God, and then returned, able to meet the demands of the day with vigor and vision and buoyant faith.
This has been an intense few weeks, and I find myself yearning more and more for that place of silence, of stillness, that place in which I am beloved. For me, that is above all the monastery in which I make my annual long retreat; one reason I am feeling stretched so thin is that my retreat is delayed this year, two months past its usual week in October. And so I find myself retreating in my mind, reaching toward a place of freedom and grace, of simplicity, a place in which life is stripped down to its essentials, and what is unnecessary falls away.
Where is that place for you? Where in your heart do you go to meet God, to meet yourself? In Christian tradition, it is called the hortus conclusus, the garden enclosed. It is the reason that so many monasteries centered around a garden: it was an image of the enclosure of our heart. Do you know the path to get to yours? Do you know it well enough to find it when cares press in on every side? Do you know the One who awaits you there?