A new session of Writing from the Heart, a women’s Amherst Writers & Artists workshop, began on Monday. I had been looking forward to this particular workshop because I had been holding in reserve some spooky postcards I had bought at La Chartreuse, a 14th century monastery in Villeneuve lez Avignon. I couldn’t wait to see how people would use them in their writing. While I very much enjoyed everyone’s pieces, Holly Peterson’s seemed to especially capture the mood of the image. With her permission, I present it to you here as an offering for All Saints Day.
La Chartreuse sits on the side of a rocky mountain, deep in a range of mountains, miles from highways, stores, towns or people. This is one of two or three or four Carthusian monasteries. This is as extreme as life can be. The documentary, fittingly titled The Grand Silence, is silent. In reality, there are the sounds of nature—screeches of the high flying birds of prey, the squeaks of nearly invisible mice and sightless voles, the soft dead non-sound after a snowfall, the tinkling drip as ice melts.
Constant prayer and physical labor—field work to supply food; maintenance to the centuries old dormitoire and chapel. What greater penance, this divesting of life as most people know it or desire it to be. In the world but not of the world. A life lived in shadows and seen only in the shadows, forgotten by everyone but God.