My Red Couch
For six years, this retreat was my version of heaven. I sank into the silence, into the depths of breath and being. At night I dreamt of a house-sized crow rising from Superior’s surface. During the day I scrambled the rocks along Lady Superior and found an outcropping that resembled a large-breasted woman, legs spread into the water as though awaiting a baby’s arrival. I practiced heeding the strange inner workings of the spirit, listening to this presence which had always been with me, even during depressions, even through my rebellions, even when I doubted God’s very existence–an accompaniment like the drone of a trustworthy bass note beneath the song of my life. For one week each year I gave it complete attention. I thought this accompaniment was normal. I never noticed it was there until it was gone.
And last October it was gone. My director rang the bell to begin our grand silence; the brass resounded until its lingering tones were swallowed by quiet and I was left with…emptiness. Except for the candles on our altar, the house was dark. Out the windows Lake Superior was dark. Darkness wrapped a stranglehold around my lungs. I faced seven elongated days of nothingness.
–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew