Monday, November 10, 2014

Guarding the Light

A number of years ago I went to a silent retreat. It was on a beautiful island not far from my home, and the center itself was gorgeous. There was a wonderful wood-burning sauna, cozy accomodation, good food, and a peaceful, outdoor labyrinth we could walk whenever we wanted.
There was a full moon that weekend - so walking the labyrinth was very special.

There was also a request from the organizers. There was a cabin on the property wherein burned a single candle. It was a small cabin with a wood-burning stove. There were blankets and pillows on the floor. We were asked to go there whenever we felt moved to. The one stipulation was that the candle, the room, was never to be left unattended. This meant that if you went there and took over from whomever was there, you couldn't leave until someone else arrived.

There was no organization. Just go when you want to, the person who was there would leave you alone.

I went up there one night around midnight, hoping to stay much of the night. Someone else arrived within the hour. I walked the labyrinth and then headed to bed. There was a small disappointment that I hadn't been able to stay longer.

The next day, there was a lot of turmoil around an incident. One participant had gone there - and no-one came to relieve her. She was angry. She felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of having to stay there. She was at the mercy of whenever someone would be moved to show up.

This story has stayed with me over the years, and today, while I was swimming, I was thinking about it.

That room, that candle, that watch is a metaphor for our lives together. Sometimes it is up to us alone to guard that which is precious. Sometimes we have to give it over to someone else to guard, even when we don't want to.

There is a bigger plan at work, and one we can't see. There is a reason one of us gets left alone for hours and hours, and another person can't seem to hold on to more than a few minutes of solitude.

There is a metaphor here.

We never know when it will be our turn to guard the light, or for how long, but we need to step up and do what is being asked of us for however long it is being asked.

We can't let the candle go out.

We can't let the fire burn down.

We just can't.


  1. This is beautiful. You took me right into that cabin and right into that labyrinth with you. I popped over from NaBloPoMo. You posted a few minutes after I did and your post was like frosting on the cake of mine. Yes, take from God's hand, without anger or disappointment or complaint, lest we miss the good gift He is giving.

    1. thank you..I now have found your blog too I think I could be called The Reluctant Anglican.

  2. Your post is an excellent reminder that we do what is needed, and not necessarily what we have planned. In the classroom, we teach the students who show up and tend to their needs of the moment. Like the candle, our students need tending, watching, and nurturing for longer than we'd like at times, or in ways we may not have imagined.

    1. Yes, this applies very well to teaching, thank you for making that connection.

  3. And no doubt there were those who didn't even approach the cabin, who left the responsibility to others.

    1. yes, and I need to give others the freedom to take on the responsibility as they need to. I can only offer, and do my part.

  4. Hi Mary-Ann. You write so beautifully about life. I love to read and ponder you words.

    How would you like to join in this weekend's Drawing Challenge I'm hosting? The theme is "folds". It doesn't have to be a drawing, of course. I'll leave that up to your creative imagination! Leave a comment on my blog and I'll add you to the list. xo


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