This slow burn has, if I’m honest, a lot in common with the feeling I have first thing in the morning, most mornings. A weighty expectation of tasks: Here come All The Things, one after another.

But then I think of the taste of my first cup of coffee, or I open the door and feel the warmth of the breeze, or I just get distracted because there are so many things to attend to that I don’t have any mental space to long for death anymore.

Here at Madonna House, I am supremely undistracted. Not because I am doing nothing, but because I am doing nothing but ordinary human things. Here is my day:

  • Wake up.
  • Gather for Lauds.
  • Gather for breakfast.
  • Work.
  • Gather for tea.
  • Work.
  • Gather for lunch.
  • Stay for spiritual reading.
  • Work.
  • Gather for tea.
  • Work.
  • Gather for Mass.
  • Gather for dinner.
  • Free time.
  • Go to sleep.

It’s just life. I even left my Kindle behind, so I wouldn’t escape into Wheel-Of-Time land, so I would remain perfectly stuck right here in Combermere, Ontario.

This is life, and I want it to be over, so I can go back to my shiny world of things that are not life. So I can text while driving while plotting database schemas while listening to the radio while drinking coffee. I am so happy here, and I want so badly for it to be over.

Six more days. Five more days. Soon it’ll be the day where I can say that there’ll be only one more day until it’s the day where the next day is the last day.

I know where I recognize this slow burn from: it’s exactly like the twenty days I spent in jail, eleven years ago this Thursday.1 Except instead of being surrounded by petulant, narrowminded malcontents, I’m surrounded by gentle good will. Instead of slick, grubby tiles, there are rough wooden beams. Instead of sweating in the dim, loud basement laundry, I sweat while planting onions and splitting wood. Good sweat.

When will it be over?

1 True story, for another day.

13 thoughts on “Madonna House, Part II of III: Jailbird

  1. Gaby

    So how are you writing and posting this? I thought you were supposed to leave all electronic devices behind at Combermere? And turn off cell phones…

    Reply
  2. JBT

    That’s why the best characters have elaborate backstories that are never fully revealed, so you can heighten the drama by mysteriously referencing “that time in Istanbul” or “Remember the fistfight with the Minotaur? Hoo boy, good times!”

    Reply
  3. Sara

    This is reminding me so much of the week I spent there a couple summers ago. I couldn’t wait to leave- but I wasn’t happy so I guess that’s a big difference! One of the great priests there said to me, after confession, “It’s not a sin to want to get away from this place as soon as possible.”

    Memories:
    - There’s nothing like rhubarb in the morning. (what???)
    - Black flies are definitely from the devil.
    - It’s really good to physically work, and to do so with lots of other silent people who are physically working.
    - It’s odd to never be asked a personal question.

    The farm was my favorite- I hope you got to go there!

    Reply
  4. Ellen Gable Hrkach

    I LOVE Madonna House (and live about two hours away from there) and my family has attended Cana Colony (and, like you, as much as I loved everything about it, I was anxious to return home to my electricity and indoor plumbing). Catherine Doherty’s saying “I am third” is posted above my computer. Joey, I am sending you a separate in-depth email about another topic. God bless you and enjoy your time at MH!!

    Reply

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