Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A visit to Bridal Veil

I spent this past weekend at a Centering Prayer retreat near the Columbia Gorge in Oregon, and during one of my afternoon breaks I went to visit the Franciscan sisters who used to run the store and the ferry dock on Shaw Island.

The four of them -- from left to right, Sister Dorothy, Sister Helen Jean, Sister Catherine, and Sister Kateri -- now live in a lovely Italianate mansion in Bridal Veil, Oregon, with a magnificent waterfall that cascades down the cliff above the house, sending its waters through an enchanting network of ponds and streams that embraces the property.

It was wonderful to have a chance to visit with them and catch up on old times: they look and seem the same to me, though it's been several years since I saw them last. I would not have known (had she not told me) that Sister Catherine had a stroke last year; she seems well on her way to recovery, and is back teaching little ones at the Montessori School in Portland.

Sister Kateri teaches music at that same school, Sister Helen Jean manages the school's accounts payable, and Sister Dorothy divides her time between teaching English as a second language and working at The Grotto in Portland.

Sister Kateri's little sheltie, Connie, is still very much with them -- she's FIFTEEN now! -- and appears not to miss her old job of greeting the ferries. She shares guarding responsibilities with two little white poodles and Sister Dorothy's cat, who bears a VERY strong resemblance to our own Alex, both in looks and personality.

As we sat in the kitchen after our tour of the grounds, drinking perfectly brewed coffee and feasting on chocolate and delicious Italian anise wafer cookies, with the view of the falls through the kitchen window and the susurrant rush of that water humming in the background I felt the poignancy of that old French proverb, Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's been many years since I left Shaw, our first island home, and yet the connection to these dear sisters remains strong. I know we approach our faith from different places on the religious spectrum, but I feel nonetheless that it is our shared belief as well as our shared past that continues to weave our lives together.

And for that I am supremely grateful.

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