I recently had the grace to spend some days of retreat in Cheshire. Ten years ago I walked those halls as a first year novice, and the memories that flooded my thoughts and prayers these days were innumerable, both of joy and pain, but always of gratitude. I penned the following lines one misty afternoon to try to weave together these impressions a little. If they seem to have little reason and less rhyme, this is because they are more an expression of the heart than of the mind.
Gently wrapped in afternoon mist, Cheshire lingers, harsh red brick edges smoothed into a pastel of soft rose, until time is erased a little, loosened, and the years seem to wash back and away. The faces of brothers long since gone, voices not heard here for decades, are somehow suddenly close, now just beyond the edge of the mist, and I can hear their distant shouts, almost see them running to preparation, or out to work, or just running. In the mist all the years seem to run together.
The dark trees trace a fine filigree of wrought wire, delicate, about the edges of sky, yet through the mind’s eye of mist they phase through all their seasons: bleak winter blooms into the gentlest grey-greens of early spring, bursts into the joy of May’s full flowered glory, relaxes into the slow warmth of summer, only to crisply ascend the throne of autumn’s all-encompassing fire.
In the mist I am swept for a moment to a place outside of time, where the seasons that succeed each other in such breathtaking procession are indelibly etched.
But now the buildings themselves are fading fast, and trees and night and brick all become one weary continuum in the mist of memory. Only now, points of fire, windows of light, remain, a memory of so much life within.