As I stood on top of Continuum’s vineyards with Tim Mondavi he pointed out the landmarks below in the Napa Valley floor. One white landmark he pointed out was the Carmelite monastery.
I knew that I would need a place to stay to focus and to complete the series. Tim’s staff provided a list of places to stay locally, mostly lovely Napa resorts. Although they all sounded inviting I wasn’t so sure that these tourist destinations would provide the silent space that I wanted to enter into to create.
Curious about the monastery, I decided to investigate on the Internet. I found that this former stately private mansion was the first Carmelite monastery in Northern California designated as a house of prayer and a retreat center.
I phoned their office and I spoke to Helga. Helga with an Irish accent. She explained that I could come and stay in the hermitage, a little cottage, for a self-directed retreat. It included dinner.
Yesterday, during the first rain of the year I took a trip to see the place. I arrived and smiling Helga was seated in the gift shop. She explained that she has a bad knee and she couldn’t make the trip down the stairs to the hermitage so she called Father Gerald.
Father Gerald was kind enough to schlep through the rain with me. I asked him what brought him here and he said God, of course. And it was the place where candidates for the Carmelite Order received their initial formation. He referred to it as “boot camp”.
Now I’m waiting for the clouds to part and checking the weather so that I can schedule my self directed retreat. There’ll be no TV, no computer, no distractions. I’ll dine with the friars in the evening and paint in silence during the day.