Denise Day Spencer

October 5, 2007

Highways and byways

Filed under: Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 9:46 pm

As I write, it’s the tail end of our school’s annual fall break. That means it’s almost time to go back to work. I keep telling myself that if I stayed off duty I’d eventually get bored. The truth is, I’m not so sure about that. But I don’t seem to ever have the time to find out!

We have had a lovely break. For some reason I enjoyed it even more than usual. After a delightful mini-vacation to Owensboro to visit my family, Michael and I went on to St. Meinrad monastery in St. Meinrad, Indiana for a one-night retreat. Everything about our stay was perfect. There was, however, a recurrent theme of…getting lost. Well, not lost, exactly. Just not being able to get where we needed to be.

Monday evening after vespers and supper, I decided to go for a walk. The St. Meinrad campus is absolutely lovely, and I wanted to enjoy it in the twilight. There are plenty of sidewalks and paved roads a visitor can use for a brisk exercise walk or a leisurely stroll.

Since St. Meinrad is on central time but we’re used to the eastern zone, I hadn’t calculated just how soon it would actually get dark. And though I’d been to the monastery before, I hadn’t rambled very far alone. This time I wanted to get at least 30 minutes of exercise, so I decided to follow one of the main roads. It must make a big loop around the campus, right?

So I looped. And I looped some more. I thought I was surely still going in the right direction and had just underestimated how big the place really was. Then I saw an unfamiliar building and a sign in the gathering gloom that said “Abbey Press Plant.” Abbey Press referred to the monks’ gift shop and mail order business. But the plant? This was where they made that stuff. This was NOT where I needed to be.

By now everything around me felt deserted, though there were still a couple of cars in the plant parking lot. I wasn’t exactly frightened. I mean, surely a monastery is statistically one of the safer places a person can be, wouldn’t you think? But I was getting a bit anxious. And it was quite warm; I was hot and thirsty and tired of wandering like a wilderness Israelite. I also didn’t want to alarm Michael. How long could I be gone before he would start to worry?

I finally found myself next to what I knew (or thought I knew) to be the Cathedral. I was clearly on the wrong side of it, though. By now it was nearly completely dark, and I saw no sidewalk around the building. I could tell the road led farther away from the campus in one direction, and back along the meandering route I had just come in the other. I didn’t relish the thought of clambering over tree roots and through ivy vines to try to make my way. Besides, I’m from eastern Kentucky. If you go traipsing through somebody’s yard in the dark around here, you’re liable to be shot at–even if the yard does belong to God.

As I stood there trying to decide what to do, a car pulled up and out came a kindly seminary student with a little shopping bag. He headed toward the building, where he would no doubt return to his tiny monkish cell. “Excuse me!” I called out. I asked for directions back to the guest house, and the lad informed me that all I had to do was go around the side of the Cathedral and keep going. He pointed me to a sidewalk I’d missed in the dusk light, and I thanked him. I’ve hoped since then that I didn’t make him break any important vows by talking to a strange woman.

The next day it was Michael’s turn to get lost. We went to the gift shop before heading home, and we took what he thought was the right road when we left. In just a few minutes, though, Michael was doubting himself. It seemed to me that we were going the right way in the general sense. We were driving east along river. But Michael informed me that we were not supposed to be alongside the river. I didn’t see that as too much of a problem. If we were going in the right general direction, couldn’t we make it work? But he wanted to be on the road he’d planned to be on. Picky, picky, picky.

So we eventually turned around and went back to St. Meinrad to connect with the preferred highway. In the process of touring southernmost Indiana, we drove through one tiny, sleepy town after another. The highlight was spotting a sign that bore an arrow and the legend, “point of interest.” It failed to state, however, what the point of interest actually was. Hmmm. Now that’s interesting. Apparently the attraction was interesting enough to deserve being pointed out, but not interesting enough to merit saying what it was. I suppose the city fathers didn’t want to arouse a sense of false hope in the heart of the average tourist.

And that made me wonder: Would we know what the point of interest was if we saw it? I mean, if it wasn’t labeled and it was only kinda-sorta interesting, maybe we would mistake it for something else. For that matter, perhaps there was no particular point of interest. Could it be that the town leaders were giving us the freedom to explore one of their city blocks and decide for ourselves what was its most interesting feature? Maybe points of interest, like beauty, are in the eyes of the beholder.

I hope that’s the case, anyway. If so, then perhaps you’ll like this post. Because to tell you the truth, my story really wasn’t all that interesting.



  1. […] Denise writes about the Highways and Byways of our recent trip to St. Meinrad. Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 4:59 pm | Trackback | Permalink […]

    Pingback by The Boar’s Head Tavern » — October 6, 2007 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  2. Denise,
    I just wanted to let you know that I find your posts very entertaining and heartfelt. I only wish you could find more time to post so that I would have to find more time to read them. 🙂
    My husband finds your husbands blog to be one of his favorites also. So, keep your hearts with God and keep on blogging.

    Comment by Becki — October 9, 2007 @ 8:34 am | Reply

  3. Should be husband’s not plural, sorry. Why would we want more than one???

    Comment by Becki — October 9, 2007 @ 8:35 am | Reply

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