My Red Couch

My Red Couch book coverThe Darker Womb (excerpt)

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