Wednesday, 1 June 2011

final vows


sunny, hot, windy, storm warning out. temps 30 degrees

We finally fled Montreal and are back out in sutton. Stunning summer day. What a season! So completely unpredictable.

I wrote this morning - a fun scene....though now I realize I got one of the character's character wrong. Need to go back tomorrow and fix it. And ads Michael drove out in the beetle - top down much of the way - other thoughts came. So that when I'm finished writing to you I'll go and make notes. fun stage to be at. The end game. And pieces falling into place, some by design, but much fortuitously. How strange, it always seems to me, how much of a book is by chance.

Despite my best efforts, this will be a hideously long first draft. So I'll need much of the summer to edit. It's always a balancing act. No use me diving immediately into an edit the day after I finish the first draft...since I'm WAY too close. I need to disconnect, get distance and perspective...then be able to go at it and read it with fresh eyes. As you might read it.

And so the mistakes will be more obvious. and, if I time it right, as soon as the scene, or character, or plot goes wrong, I'll know it. It's often upsetting - and I can spend an embarrassing amount of time pretending it's just fine, before going back and fixing it...but wow, so much easier when you 'know'...even if I live in denial for a while.

Tomorrow is a day Michael and I have been looking forward to for a long time. As some of you might remember, last fall and winter Michael and I went to a local benedictine monastery, Saint-Benoit-du-lac. It's famous in quebec for it's cheeses and it's chants. Gregorian chants.

My next novel (the one I'm just now finishing) was going to be set in a monastery and I needed to do research. So I called up, spoke to the prior (who spoke some english, but not all that much. and was just charming). He immediately understood and invited us to stay a night with them, in a cell. I actually thought I'd have to stay in the nunnery next door, but when we arrived, they'd put us in their presidential suite. Though I suspect no president has stayed there - but they'd be welcome.

The Benedictines have taken, among other vows, a vow of hospitality. Lucky us! And they take it seriously.

the prior, smart man that he is, quickly handed us over to Brother charles. And within minutes a deep friendship was formed. We just fell in love with him. He's an American, who converted a few years ago...came to Quebec. learned French. And was in the final stages of becoming a benedictine monk. He was also in charge of their archives and library. An avid and voracious reader - he also happens to love crime fiction!!! And have quite a mind for it.

A partnership made in heaven.

For the next 24 hours Michael, Brother Charles and I walked the halls, went into places few ever get to see, sat in on private prayers. heard the monks sing their famous chants. It was increasingly peaceful. Restful. Beautiful. It's a time neither Michael nor I will forget.

As I've been writing I'll get in touch with Brother Charles and ask questions, about their lives and their music and their prayers and vocations. He answers every question, quickly and clearly and with good humour.

And tomorrow, Brother Charles is taking his final vows. He asked if Michael and I could be there, and we didn't hesitate. What a beautiful thing to witness. Above is a photo of him (with Michael bulging from the archives - not properly filed.)

Oh, one other note...in sending out the newsletter today I made a geographical error. Actually, it was a stupid mistake. I placed North Conway in Vermont instead of New Hampshire - where I knew it was! Just one of those mind-burps. Pardon me.

I'll be there at White Birch books this fall, to make up for having to cancel due to a sudden flu last fall. When I have a date I'll let you know!

Have a terrific evening. We'll fire up the barbeque and see what happens. I'm trying to convince Michael to do in the pool. Water still to cold for me. I'm delicate, you know.

Speak soon.

16 comments:

Lee Ann said...

What a beautiful post. I feel more peaceful just reading about the monastery. And,congratulations to Brother Charles!

Now, as I've told you before, get back to your writing!

Lee Ann

martha said...

An absolutely wonderful experience! And -- have you noticed that Michael's sweater (or is it a vest?) matches the colours (and almost the pattern) of he tiles on the floor? Love it all!

Mary said...

What a great setting for this book. (I love Gregorian chants - I have some recordings from the Weston Priory in Weston, VT.) Can't wait to read it.
What a wonderful invitation you and Michael have received.

rapa said...

What a treasure to have found friendship with Brother Charles and he with you! Oviously he will be getting an advance copy of the book you are currently crafting. Think of all the monks who will get to read it before the rest of us....and am sure they will honor the vow of silence before publication!
Thanks for sharing your trip to the monastery! Peaceful bliss!

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous encounter! Not to mention you are closer to finishing your book, which means I'm closer to being able to read it!
Lizzy

Valerie said...

Oh what a wonderful opportunity to go to the monastery! And to be able to get so much material for your next novel.

whalewatcher said...

Your sense of humor always amuses....Michael sticking out from the row....not properly filed.ha! and the openness w/which you share is always thought provoking. Thank you

Mary L said...

I think it was so nice of Brother Charles to invite you to his vows ritual; true friendship is worth celebrating.

Anonymous said...

What an inspiration. I was brought up going to many services at the Trappist Monastery in Spencer, MA which have had a profound influence on me. Gregorian chant is my choice of meditatve music. You have brought back so many memories already. Thank you, Louise!
Catherine Allen

Lisa May said...

I'm an archivist - and oh so envious of their beautiful archives! not to mention your behind-the-scenes visits. It reminds me of Kathleen Norris' amazing book Cloister Walk.

Jan J. said...

What an amazing experience and invitation! We have a Trappist monastary down the road and my girls and I feel such a sense of peace there as well. The church looks fairly normal from the outside, but inside somehow resembles a grand European church with gorgeous light flowing in from the stained glass windows. Listening to the liturgy while bathed in this beautiful glow was really special. What a priviledge to witness Brother Charles' final vows ritual.

Barbara said...

North Conway! We were there for our wedding night 36 years ago and went there frequently for hiking, etc. while we lived in Maine. Haven't been for quite a while now, so I'm thinking maybe I can talk Dave into a little trip. I'll await news of the date you'll be there and then spring it on him. :D

Chris North said...

Good for you that Brother Charles hadn't taken a vow of silence!

How lovely that you were invited to be a part of such an intimate and deeply personal ceremony. It's such a treat to form friendships as we get older. Especially unlikely ones.

lil Gluckstern said...

How nice you two must be. Brother Charles looks exactly like what I imagine him to look like. I am really curious to read the book and see how the monastery works into it. It's nice that you are having fun with the book. Don't get a chill; you're going out on tour. Do I sound like like your mother? Sorry.

Judy said...

Looking forward to the book...and also congrats on the Ellis Award! I recommend your books alot, thanks for the memorable reading.

Trina said...

Congrats on the Ellis award. Can't wait to have A Trick of the Light in my hand, especially after the lovely descriptions here.
Take care,
Trina