I longed for moisture, for mist, for coolness…perhaps even a gentle rain to quench the spiritual thirst that brought me to this place. I have come seeking rest and renewal and respite from the chaos of the outside world.
As the wind whips around the trees, it almost sounds like rain fall. But as I listen closely, I realize that it is more like music…the staccato of dry leaves swirling through the air as they crash to the ground. Amidst the leaves are clusters of acorns, and they make a riveting noise as they smash to the forest floor. Pop, pop, pop….pop pop…like pellets shooting from the sky and finding their mark on the dry earth.
The acorns fall among the leaves and blend into the rust brown landscape that is parched from long months of drought. Deer prance through clearings searching for water. They only find dry creek beds and empty watering holes that sit exposed, waiting to be filled by mother nature.
Bushy-tailed squirrels scramble along the grounds gathering acorns. They also rustle through the trees, jumping from branch to branch, like mall shoppers flitting from store to store searching for bargains and early bird specials.
The crows call out as they flit around the forest, and they swirl round and round as if to gather inhabitants of the forest for worship.
We find each other…eight Belle Coeur Sisters. We gather for reunion…and yearn to be nourished, healed, and restored to service.
Wind chimes draw us to the main house where we are fed hearty soups and healthy greens and nourishing grains. Next to the dining room we find a circular chapel that is dedicated to all faiths. All are welcome to sit in silence, to chant prayers, to hear words of wisdom …and to leave somehow changed by the experience.
In the Bede house we sit in circle and share rituals and sacred life arts and crafts. We share our stories and our wisdom, and reflect on what it means to be a sister to one another.
On All Hallows Eve we gather in the “mother grove” and recall our ancestral motherliness. Crows form a protective circle around us. As night falls we walk the labyrinth in silence and darkness. The stones show us the way. We touch the bark of trees that are keeping watch, and we get glimpses of the Celtic Cross that helps us find our way to the center. There we find a stone bench with amulets left behind by pilgrims who have walked this way before us.
As the days go by, we lose a sense of time and space. Our internal clocks become set to forest time. Morning, Noon and Evening prayers and meals become our “daily office,” and form the pattern for our days and nights in the woods.
We reflect on our life’s journeys, and how we have moved from maidenhood to motherhood and now into crone time. We encourage each other to embrace our roles as wise women, healers and elders. We celebrate our past and look forward to the future.
A spiritual energy flows through our beings and light shines in our darkness. We gain a new sense of freedom and awareness as we spend these sacred moments together.
On All Saints Day we gather for many forms of prayer and share communion together. “Bread for the Journey, the Cup of Compassion.” This ceremony unites us with the communion of saints in heaven and on earth.
The time comes for us to leave the Forest of Peace and journey home to our hearths and homes. Our beloveds await us as we return to life beyond the forest. Sacred silence remains in our hearts as the world begins to bombard us with noisy chaos. We protect the silence that strengthens us and heals us and that will remain with us as onward we go. We will not let go of that silence easily or completely. We will carry with us…a Forest of Peace.