Saturday morning. 10am. I sit at the Shaw Island ferry terminal on my way to Friday Harbor. It’s a gorgeous day. The sun is shining brightly, enjoying no competition from the clouds, while fighting almost neck to neck with the sea for attention. I think the sea is winning. I’m going to Friday Harbor for the day—oddly enough the “big” city of the San Juan's will be my refuge. A day of not being accountable to others, I guess. Though I’m no longer “house mother,” I am still veteran. I still get a lot of questions. People still think I’m somehow in charge. As I left, Fred and his wife Anne arrived with their daughter Paula and her four children. The farm was bustling so it was a perfect time to slip away.
Yesterday after lunch, I helped Mother Mary Grace at the pond, watering the diverse multitude of plants and flowers, taking off the “dead heads” and putting them in a compost pile via wheelbarrow. That was after we had driven up to her house to collect scrap metal that was going to be cleared away. “How do you feel about mice?” she asked me soberly. On our drive back down to the barn, I learned the dimensions of OLR’s cells (cell = room in Benedictine). I could tell you the exact specifications and furniture set up thanks to Mary Grace’s explanation. We had quite the conversation, culminating in subjects like C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton as we stood leaning over the wooden fence like kids overlooking the pond. “I haven’t told you the pond story yet?” she asked incredulously. It entailed her friend jumping in the vastly overgrown area, finding a water pump and beginning to clear out the gunk on her visit years ago. “She didn’t ask permission,” Mother said, looking me in the eye. “Here, you need permission to go to the bathroom.” By the looks of the waterfall, fountain, roses, daisies, and 50 fish, the pond story ended well.
I cherish these moments. The small periods of true connection with the Mothers. They give me such comfort; and I’ve learned to appreciate them because of their scarcity. These are the only nuns I’ve really gotten to know. And though they can be a little mysterious and rough around the edges (who wouldn’t be after receiving about 300 guests a year for over two decades and working on a farm?), they are also just incredibly good people.
Meanwhile, I look outside the ferry window to find the ocean offering me her own treasure: diamonds shining brightly on her surface, beckoning me to continue life’s search for gold.