Tag Archives: St. Peter’s Abbey

St. Peter’s Abbey: Day Four

St. Peter’s Abbey is oldest Benedictine monastery in Canada. It was founded in 1903. In the early pictures, there is a distinct lack of trees, but over the years the Brothers have created a green oasis in the middle of the sweeping prairie. I have not done much outdoor exploring though. I enjoy the greenery mostly from my window and that’s because this whole area is tick-infested and I don’t want one of those creepy parasites digging into my flesh. When I do walk, I stick to the gravel roads, which are apparently safe from creepy crawlies. There are always surprises on residencies, but this was one I could have missed.

A great surprise was discovering that my Old friend Art Slade was here for three days giving a workshop on writing YA fiction. All of us enjoyed talking to and teasing Art. I love reconnecting with writers, especially those who write in the same genre!

Last night, Father D gave us a tour of the Abbey, including the college, and the cellars. I’ve posted a picture of him below. The Abbey is always on the lookout for fresh Monks. Male, over eighteen, Catholic, Find out information here. I can actually see a lot of advantages to being a monk, of which I won’t list at the moment. Of course, I don’t qualify on so many levels, but others will.

All of this peace has given me some much needed time to reflect on loss and love and out of that I’ve remember that the pain never outshines the love. Not in the end. Love is too strong. We won’t ever replace our Kitty Moffat, but one day we will all be strong enough to bring another four legged friend into our lives.

Just not yet. But a friend said to me, “Pets are temporary. They are given to us for a short period of time. During this time, they need a home and love, just like anyone else. That’s what we give to them and we get so much more back.” So, if you are suffering the loss of your four-legged friend, close the door for as long as you need, but keep it unlocked!

Yikes, metaphors… that’s what happens at a writing residency.

I’ve been working hard on new ideas, researching those ideas and getting about a thousand words a day down on the page. Not all good words, mind you, but I’m forcing myself to do what I always tell new writers to do. I’m showing up at the page EVERY morning. Something great will come out of all of this work, I know.

One of the poets asked me what it felt like for a West Coaster to be way out here in the prairie. I replied, “I feel safe and protected like I’m in the middle of a soft, King-sized bed and no matter how much I roll around, I can’t fall off the edge.”

Saskatchewan is like that. Our nearest village is Muenster, a five minute walk up the road. The abbey is surrounded by huge farms; fields of purple and yellow and green and gold. The nearest town, where there is liquor store (which we all care about), is Humboldt. Humboldt is a city recovering from terrible tragedy, filled with warm and friendly people.

The Brothers and Fathers here at St. Peters’s were and continue to play a large part in their acceptance of the bus crash that took so many young lives from this area.

Next time, I hope I get to tell you about the wind.

 

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About Time Flying, Insects, Progress and Welcoming a New Week

I’ve been here at St. Peter’s Abbey in Saskatchewan for one week now, and I still can’t spell Saskatchewan without the help of spell check.

Last night the huge storm I’d been waiting for with great anticipation for the last seven days swept through this region – thunder, great bucketfuls of welcome rain, sheet lightening, fork lightening – a true prairie storm and I slept through the whole show! Disappointing, but also indicative of how tired I was as week one drew to its thunderous close.

Most of the other writers feel the same way as I do: very satisfied with week’s accomplishments but mentally drained. And physically too. St. Peter’s has a wonderful, new weight/exercise room and it is here where I go to challenge my body (they’ve got every machine imaginable) and rest my mind (I literally stop thinking thanks to the two big screen TVs, alternately tuned to a 24 hour news station or MTV. I’ve learned that you can’t survive an hour of Sixteen and Pregnant without a complete zone out), otherwise you would might want to march yourself to the loony bin.

This morning dawned cool and sunny. The grass is damp and the humidity blew out of town on the wings of the storm. Even the mosquitoes — easily the size of small planes — seem to be on hiatus. Speaking of skidders (they call them that in Ontario, because, I think, they skim across the water), yesterday one of the writers I’ve become friends with, Virginia Eckert, and I trekked into Meunster, bravely facing down the approaching storm for a little shopping excursion.

Through Wind and Rain They Marched

There is a Co-Op store there, as there is in every town, no matter how small and it was here we discovered the most magical of all tools — a mosquito executor. It’s sort of an electric chair for mosquitos disguised as a badminton racket.

Ms. Eckert Demonstrates How to Kill a Monster Bug

This magic wand made the evening cocktail hour much more enjoyable. The bugs are a problem here. I don’t step outdoors unless I’m covered in clothes and bug spray. These critters can bite through a hoody or a jeans like a knife through butter, but there’s not much they can do about a couple of volts of current running through their blood-hungry bodies.

I love to sit in my small room in the daytime and work. From my desk, I can see the blue sky, broken only by the tree branches that lean over my window, and the best part of all? I can hear the wind. It sounds like a someone whispering “shhhh” in a musical, soft voice. If I need a change of scenery, the abbey has a large, well-stocked library and always the weight room.

It’s not uncommon to write for six or seven hours a day — uninterrupted and in my own rhythm. I am very pleased with the progress of the book I am working on. Two nights ago, we all read from our work — never an easy thing to do with a first draft, but because we all know each other a bit, I didn’t feel too nervous and it helped me to hear my words out loud.

What a talented group though! Part of the advantage of going away to a retreat is the interaction one has with the other writers, and we have one artist here is well. There is lots of idea-exchange and discussion around writing all the time, but especially at meals.

I am not totally enamoured of the food — it’s good, but really heavy on the meat, so I often skip lunch and try to stick with salads and soups at night. I have a stash of trail mix and some yoghurt to get me through the long gap between breakfast, which is good and dinner.

I actually saw this in the Co-OP:

Burger in a Bag

It’s burger in a bag…and yes, it does have a prairie green tinge to it!

I do miss the markets and the fresh, organic food Vancouver is so blessed with and I MISS FISH…
It’s good and probably especially good for writers to get out of their comfort zones — keeps the mind alert.

And the biggest surprise of all? The Abbot, who we call “Abbot Peter,” because that is his monk name, is a really friendly, enjoyable man. He took us on a journey, but that’s a whole other story. I’ve been to a Vespers and I was at an early morning service today and I am going to a mass at the lovely cathedral across the tracks and down the road on Sunday. We are going to get a ride with one of the brothers, who is conducting, if that’s the word, the service.

I am fascinated by their ability to believe…but no closer to believing, but I love the music 🙂

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Summer Writing Retreat Canada: St. Peter’s Abbey, Saskatchewan

Every year or so, I have been lucky enough to be accepted at different writer’s retreats in places as far away as Iceland, or as enchanting as the Yukon and this July I am off to St. Peter’s Abbey in glorious Saskatchewan, a province I have visited in the past and fallen in love with, for it’s magical skies and awe-dropping sunsets and the people are pretty great too.

Thanks to the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild, of which I am a member, as well as CARFAC Saskatchewan with funding from Saskatchewan Lotteries, SaskCulture and the Saskatchewan Arts Board, I will be able to spend two weeks at this lovely Benedictine Monastery in Muenster, just ninety kilometres east of Saskatoon near Humboldt.

In my experience, being provided with a quiet, tranquil and peaceful setting, absent of everyday distractions is the most ideal way to get the creative juices flowing and I am very thankful for this opportunity. While there, I will be working on a new novel – the ideas are formed and the characters are already in my head, so, with a little time to think and write, I should be able to get the bones of the story down.

I leave next Thursday and will be gone two weeks and hope to blog about this experience.

There is something magical about stepping out of the chaos of everyday life!

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