Stage 10 of the #VirtualCamino2020
Today the guide takes us to a monastery. And she talks about ancestors.
The dissonance that plays between my associations with these ideas – solitude and connection – is pleasant.
I often write about the sense I have of being untethered in the world. The fabric of my family is frayed and torn. Ancestors is an archaic word in my ears, and absent from my vernacular. The characters in my grandmother’s the stories sprout from nowhere and disappear. Maybe Germany, maybe Holland. From my father I have heard some very odd claims about a royal bloodline that are illogical, but might explain some of the eccentricities – belonging to the characters, belonging to me.
In my early teens we visited Pleasantville in Kentucky, and I was fascinated by the history of the Shaker community there. I wanted to stay in one of their little cabins for a summer. On my own.
To be honest, I am not certain who the “we” were who visited. Did my grandparents take me? My step-father, mother and brother, perhaps? I can’t imagine why they would have chosen to go there. But it would explain my experience of being alone in the place. I gravitate towards things that do not interest most people I’ve known.
I have always been drawn to sacred spaces. Quaker rooms and Gothic Cathedrals. A circle of rocks in a field. Museums. Sometimes I wonder how I didn’t wind up a nun. Or a member of some insular sect detached from the world. It is not an inconceivable idea. But I have always pulled toward extremes. I am content – more than content – now to put effort into walking a middle path.
I’ve stopped asking myself the why of the fascination. Some years ago I decided to let the mystery be and just find pleasure in the spaces.
Though I do wonder if there is something about the energy of all the seekers who have passed through these spaces, looking for something. The energy of their intensity, their need, desire, their longing almost erotic somehow – leaving a ghost of some yet-undetected hormone. A preternatural presence that can only be felt in the quiet of what appears to be solitude.