Thursday, September 07, 2006

Finding a Sabbatical Rhythm

This is my new home for the next three-plus months. I have a nice two-bedroom apartment with a fireplace that sits in the middle of the living room. We even get chopped wood for the winter weather. One of the returning sabbaticants told me yesterday that by December of last year Lake Sagatagan had already frozen over enough that you could completely walk across. Rumor has it that the monks build handsome little ice houses from which to fish and pray.

My day usually begins between 5 and 5:30 a.m., depending on how energetic I feel as Minnesota Public Radio (broadcast from right here in Collegeville) brings me back to life. Since I get a lot of walking in here, I am not quite as particular as I am at home in Greenville in getting a half hour of walking in before 6 a.m. After breakfast, I usually head to prayer at the Abbey Church, which begins at 7 a.m. It is an uphill walk and usually takes me about 15 minutes. Mornings are usually spent at my carrel in the basement of the library reading and doing research. It is a very quiet space in which to work with lots of shelf space and a common area with coffee and tea. Two days a week, however, I audit a graduate course at the School of Theology on the Liturgy of the Hours. On Thursday afternoons, Midday Prayer and Lunch are held there, as well. Tuesday afternoons are given over to Seminar at the Ecumenical Institute but, otherwise, I try to read, write, or get some walking in most afternoons. Evening activities are usually slower, but I'm really looking forward to several special events, including a play, some concerts, and an occasional social.

The hardest part about the Sabbatical is being away from my wife and family. One learns to surrender familiarity, love, and companionship for a change of pace, solitude, and living more closely within the cycle of prayer. I haven't made it to Evening Prayer yet. They do it late here--7 p.m. By that time, I like to be back down at the apartment with my feet up and a good book in hand. I don't think I would be very good as a night owl. I once tried team teaching a course of an evening with my colleague, Dr. Hart, and, while I really enjoyed working with her, my energy level from about 7-8 p.m. on really begins to flag. I vastly prefer to wake to the darkness of the autumnal morning and watch the fiery veins of dawn begin to streak across the eastern horizon. Unfortunately, the Alcuin library here opens late (8 a.m.), so I usually have to go over to the Great Hall after Morning Prayer till they open up. You can buy fresh whole grain bread there made by the monks for $3. It is good and hearty.

If you have any questions about the sabbatical, why I'm here, what I hope to do, or how life is in general, send me an e-mail. I'd love to hear from you.