Gethsemani Abbey – Talking About the Story: Laura Sorrells, Artist Statement
It’s December tenth. Seventy-one years ago, Thomas Merton went to live at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky to become a Trappist monk. I discovered Merton’s writing when I was twenty-eight, and very far away from any sort of contemplative way of being. His work, redemptive and challenging as it was for me, never took me into his world. I am still surprised by the passage into where I am now, that shift into this liminal space of paradoxical peace and longing. It really began when I visited the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, in October of 2011 to attend a retreat. I did not expect the sense of radical homecoming and peace that I felt there.
An acquaintance mentioned to me, not long after my first visit to the Cistercian monastery, that she was an ecumenical lay associate there. She asked me if I would be interested in becoming one too. I was, and the ongoing pilgrimage of my heart picked up speed in earnest. I visited Gethsemani for the first time with the other lay ecumenical associates, a diverse group of about twelve, in July. We stayed down the road at a bed and breakfast, Bethany Spring, and were only at Gethsemani for about a day and a half. Oddly, I found myself forgetting that it had been Merton’s home; it just felt like mine. I knew I had to go back. I was fortunate to be able to spend this past Thanksgiving week there, and my heart is still adjusting to being away from the place. Doubtless parts of it are still, inextricably and graciously, there forever.
Laura Sorrells lives in the north Georgia mountains. She teaches seventh grade English and is writing a memoir about family, spirituality, and narrative. She also takes pictures, watches wildlife, and collects random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. She is a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae.