Reflections

A Day In The Life--May 3, 2011

As I was sorting out my little piles of goodies, I found three things that I'd like to share. On the top of the pile was this anonymous quote,

“The big picture is about growing for the future.”

Another crumpled piece of paper held,

“We make a living from what we make. We make a life from what we give.” Tom Sieger

And then a torn newsprint clipping read,

The Beatitudes of the Aged

Blessed be those who understand my slow steps and my shaking hands.
Blessed are those who notice that my ears have to strain to hear what they are saying.
Blessed be those who perceive that my eyes are clouded and my reactions are slow.
Blessed are those who look the other way when I dribble at the table.
Blessed be those who please me with a smile, giving me time to talk about things of no importance.
Blessed are those who never say: “You’ve told me that a thousand times!”
Blessed be those who know how to talk about what happened in the past.
Blessed are those who make me feel that I’m loved and not abandoned.
Blessed be those who understand how hard it is for me to carry my cross.
Blessed are those who help me make that last journey to the Promised Land, treating me with love and tender care.By Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns
 

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A piece written in 2003

Can Llamas Tell You About Yourself?

The Bridge-Between Retreat Center and Llama Farm has llamas assist them in helping people.

 

Welcome, I'm Jane. Guests come daily to The Bridge-Between Retreat Center in Denmark Northeastern Wisconsin, a llama's leap from the Door County peninsula. Some stay for a few days some for several weeks, while others drop by to talk to us llamas and to enjoy soups made from vegetables grown in the organic garden fertilized by us natural manure makers.

I, Jane, was given to the Retreat Center a year ago November, in fact three of us were donated. I used to be very high strung. Mama and I were always vying for power. My caretakers saw I wasn't really happy, so they moved me in with Babette. She respects my needs for self-assertiveness without being threatened. At first my owners seemed afraid of me and hardly ever touched me. Everyday they talk to me and hold my dish as I eat. I used to be very leery of their movements. Daily I allow them closer. Gradually I have let them into my world of insecurity. Each day I feel better about myself. Pretty soon I'll have my first baby on this farm. I'm looking forward to it, because visitors come year round. Some will tell my baby their life story. Some retreatants appear to sit like icons, their eyes following our every move. Others unravel their knotted lives like arthritic weavers. Others pour themselves out like grain, sharing their stories of life and death with its ups and downs and ins and outs. Usually the retreatant visits Mama Cleo for she has lived more of life and seems to understand. She chews contentedly assuring the storyteller that this too shall pass. Mama is 11 and is expecting her 9th. Her grandchildren are many. She seems to take all in stride except for competition. She is after all the matriarch and demands respect, with a tilt of the ears everyone listens; no spit is needed, as her message is clear.

Babette is like a sister to me. Most days are easy come and easy go for her. She loves to thank God at the end of the day for the feast of life. She prongs around the pasture in total contentment. She accepts me as I am. She has had the most beautiful babies. I think its because she feels she is beautiful that she tells her babies that they are beautiful. They hear it often and therefore have grown to believe it. Ali Babba won 1st in Best of Wool and Best of Conformation in the medium to heavy wool at The Wooll Gathering in Fond du Lac, WI at only 8 months old, (sire Marrocco). Whippoorwill, Babette's second (Sire Shambles Grand Champion, Wooll Gathering, Fond du Lac, WI) is holding a coming out party this May. He stands proudly and shows an elegance of a promising herd sire. However at eight months he would rather play with his buddy Moonshine!

Rye (O'Ryan) is very special. He demands respect while turning the visitors to mush with his bedroom eyes. He is conscientious and accepting in companioning our llama children and Jacob the sheep. When he is in with us adults, he seems to allow himself to be intimidated and becomes defensive toward us. Yet when he is out in public, he's proudly debonair.

Dominic Son of Llady Cleodonas (Mama and Sire Marrocco) is learning who he is. He still looks for Mama and wonders why growing up is as hard as it is. He seems to have interest in many things much like a toddler is into to everything. He aspires being champion quality. He believes that you become what you think about.

Moonshine is strong and strikingly tall and handsome, very alert and keen to please, assertive and a victim of circumstance. There was lack of pasture space at the time. One evening, being an invincible teen, he decided to jump the fence and take on a larger intact male. My caretakers heard the ruckus and only with¬¬¬¬¬ adrenaline running pulled them apart. They were helpless against such strength and decided one of the males must be gelded in the morning. It was a difficult and painful decision. Being the youngest, Moonshine was chosen. He seems to have moved beyond this humiliating circumstance. He puts his energies into becoming all he can be and invites all who to come talk to him to do the same.

People of all faiths and beliefs come here to get closer to themselves, God, neighbor and creation. We llamas help many people to know themselves better. In lots of ways we don't have to do anything, except to be ourselves. Retreatants are attracted to our size, temperament and color. It's like they experience a kindred spirit.

At a retreat center people tend to slow down, relax and become more aware of their surroundings. The backdrop to the day is sunrise and sunset. Stars hang from the sky while fireflies punctuate these endless murals. Frogs chant about life, while we llamas give thanks for the day's blessings with a prayerful prong.

Storms come and go, just as the seasons. We bend well to each. This is perhaps our gift, to show the retreatant or visitor that our life is much like theirs. It is full of giving and receiving the gifts layed before us in daily life that counts. Each day we reverently walk upon the earth never forgetting where we have come from, or from whom life is given.

We llamas assist The Bridge to help people of all ages to gain insights about themselves. We quietly hope they will see their reflection in us. Old life threads are woven into new life giving stories. How do we this? By gently, setting before our guests the gifts of stillness, focus, attentiveness and discernment.

The rest is up each guest or retreatant…to get in touch with the gifts inside.

P.S. Since this article was written 2003, Jane, Mama Cleo, and Rye have died. Please come and meet Babette, Moonshine, Whippoorwill, and Dominic. 

 

 

Decision Making

This morning at dawn, I witnessed sun and moon kissing.

They said "good morning" and "good night."

Both are right.

Could we apply 'and' to our decision making?

Caroline

 

 

Living

Life unfolds

 

a page at a time.

Only a word is lived, spoken, one at a time.

Caroline

 


Learning to Listen

Anytime, feel free to come and feed your heart’s soul. Relax. Refresh. Renew yourself in nature’s backyard while “learning to listen”. I just spent 2 ½ hours at a car dealership waiting for an oil change and a 30,000 mile check-up. Bombarded by a TV belching out the news. No one seemed to be listening. It was just there. Maybe its purpose was to fill the void. The VOID of being starved to death by constant noise . . . “It’s impossible in the United States to experience 15 minutes or longer where there is not some kind of noise disruption in the background.”—Mr. Hempton. Is it that we have lost our hearing? Or rather is it that we have lost our ability to listen — to snow falling, ice melting, or the wind blowing through our eye lashes!

Caroline
 

Day in the life
(at The Bridge-Between Retreat Center)

A Day in the Life . . . August 2010

Humidity weighing in at 98%. Our gardener and volunteers were seen flying through the fog like cranes airlifted by mosquitoes. This morning a rented kayak was used to navigate into the garden after 2.5 inches of rain with more expected. We are blessed to still be above water. The losses are mounting--potatoes, garlic, lettuce . . . . As we were eating lunch today, I saw the Queen Mary coming towards us out of dry dock!

 

The Bridge-Between: A Place for Hospitality, Tranquility, Contemplation & Love

BY JOHN PRICE

I pulled up to the long driveway with the small, colorful sign. "The Bridge-Between; Dominican Spirituality Center; Llamas for Sale; Farm Fresh Eggs." I would find out soon enough that I could leave ALL my baggage at the end of that driveway and enter into a world of love virtually unmatched by any I have yet experienced.

Founded by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Caroline Sullivan in 1987, The Bridge has offered a haven for guests and retreatants year-round. The central house, built in 1909, is heated mostly by a big cast iron stove in the center of the living room. When I enter the house, the first thing that greets me is the smell of delicious homemade food, much of it organic and largely vegetarian. Two pots of soup simmer on the stove. Sister Caroline or Diane Eparvier, the other full-time resident, greet me with a smile, a hug, and if I am really blessed, a kiss on the cheek.

Upstairs is the chapel, where twice a day people gather for contemplative prayer, a scriptural reading, some floating music of spirit wings. The grounds, bordered by The Devil's River and cross-checked with trails for walking or skiing, are punctuated by an 1890 barn--the Belgian Cathedral. An 1890 granary is a lodge where groups can stay for retreat, or individual retreatants can enjoy a quiet time in front of the fire as well. There are four hermitage quarters. Three of them are perfectly round rooms uniquely embedded in the old silo. Another, a tiny cottage is off near the elder trees at the edge of the river.

Llamas peer at visitors with a quiet but intense gaze. They'll come and check you out if they feel like it. They'll smell your breath to get to know you. If they like you and are so inclined, they'll breathe with you. And if they really like you, they'll let out a healthy burp! These llamas, being the good creatures raised at The Bridge, are not known to spit in your face. Flicka, the benevolent and ancient lady canine, Fearless, the wild-eyed cat, and The Duchess of Rags, the cat with style, keep good watch on the grounds around the house. Jacob the sheep seems to be the barnyard boss. Giant ducks, Jacob's attendants, strut and quack. The free-range chickens move from their roosts to the back field at will, but the hawks must be avoided.

You might meet other people there, too. Perhaps Nick, the farmhand or Kathy the able office manager, or other folks just there for the day or a longer retreat, are all potential smiles and warmth. I have been blessed to visit The Bridge-Between in all seasons. My first visit was over a year ago, when I sought arrangements for a "spiritual direction" retreat. Our encounter felt so good that I returned two weeks before Christmas in 2001 to spend six days in a round room in the silo. I would awake early, go into the granary to start the stove and fix some breakfast, return to my room to meditate, then go back to the granary for the rest of the morning to do my yoga, read, and relax. Preceding the midday and evening communal meals are the prayer sessions, and each day found me feeling deeper and deeper the love and Godliness of the place. Each afternoon I would walk the farmlands in rural Brown County where The Bridge is located.

Retreats can be as private as one wants. It is not uncommon for people to do extended silent retreats, with meals brought to their hermitages. If one wants company, great company is to be found around the table. I have rarely heard anyone ask, "What do you do for a living?" The acceptance is indescribable. And no two meals are ever the same. The unique cooking style is based on economy of use with maximum nutrition and flavor. Meals are truly international, with "recipes" coming from all continents blended to the taste of Sister Caroline or Diane, and are always really, really good.

As of the writing of this article, the property is undergoing an incredibly ambitious expansion. With all donated time and materials, the dining area is being expanded to host much larger groups, and the second floor chapel is being moved to a brand-new space with windows to allow a view of sunrise and sunset. The entire house is experiencing some sort of change, whether it be the new roof, two new bathrooms, carpeting, or appliances. The granary's wide plank floors will be refurbished and polished to a luster. This renovation is expected to be complete before the end of 2002, with everything set for the next fifteen years of peace and offering for The Bridge-Between.

The Bridge-Between is a retreat ministry of the Sinsinawa Dominicans. I have witnessed Christian, Muslim, Sufi, Zen, and Hindu-Yogic celebrations of faith there. It is ecumenical in the best sense--centering on where each of us meets Creation-and not a false, "Let's get together and wallow in diversity" mode. The Bridge's purpose is to provide a contemplative setting for creating a wholistic lifestyle. The setting provides a place to deepen relationships with God, self, neighbor, and creation. Guests of all denominations join to pray, to share meals, to study, and to enjoy recreation and the natural silence.

Sister Caroline, Diane, Kathy, Nick, and others I've met there are among the most genuine and loving people I've encountered in my 50+ years. They have joy in themselves and anyone who meets them will feel it.

Spiritual guidance can be arranged by contacting Sister Caroline. The facility also offers massage therapy, cooking/baking, spinning and weaving workshops, and organic gardening advice. The Forget-Me-Not gift shop offers country hand-made items. Sheep and llama wool are for sale.

The Bridge-Between is located near the town of Lark, between Greenleaf and Denmark, about halfway between Green Bay and Appleton. The Bridge is always in need of assistance, financial or otherwise. Anyone interested in visiting The Bridge-Between call (920) 864-7230; e-mail at info@bridge-between.com check the web site at www.bridge-between.org.

 

 
The Bridge-Between Retreat Center
4471 Flaherty Lane, Denmark, WI 54208
Phone: (920) 864-7230
info@bridge-between.com