Last Thursday, I had lunch with a friend from the AA group here in Warwick that has adopted us. He mentioned a retreat that he and a few other members of the group were planning on attending over the weekend. I expressed my interest in joining them and he said he would see if there was space available. I got the call the following morning to be ready to go at 11:00 after the meeting. I quickly threw a few things in a bag and rode with one of the gang through Connecticut and into the hills of upstate New York to the Sisters of Atonement retreat center in Garrison NY, about a three hour drive.
The facility was a beautiful old compound from the early 1900s. The nuns have their center at the bottom of the hill and the friars at the top of the hill. In between is a rehab center for alcoholics and drug addicts. One of our crew had gotten sober there forty years ago and was excited to return to see how the place is doing. Rain fell softly all day and throughout the entire weekend.
We made it just in time to catch a slice of meatloaf before the nuns broke down the dining hall. The meetings were held in a beautiful room with a large arching window overlooking the forest below. The facilitator was a Catholic deacon who led the speaker part of the meeting before breaking into smaller groups where we would share our experience with each other. The retreat turned out to be AA recovery with a Catholic slant to it. It went okay for everyone of different backgrounds because the group didn’t stress any particular religious viewpoint and no one was coerced to conform to any one particular spiritual outlook.
Saturday started out with a meditation that about a third of us showed up for then the nuns cooked us up some breakfast. We had another group session then small breakout meetings for discussion. Most of the 40 attendees were from New York, so I got to decipher lots of different dialects from the Bronx, Yonkers and Queens.
In the afternoon, four of us piled into a car and drove off to hit a Rite Aid so another guy could grab a needed prescription. We passed through beautiful forested hills following the Hudson River. We took the wrong route and ended up at the wrong Rite Aid about 12 miles away. No problem, they got the prescription filled and since we just a mile or so from West Point, we decided to have a look.
We pulled up to the gate and one of the crew hadn’t brought along his ID. I guess us four gray haired seniors didn’t look too menacing, so he said don’t tell anyone and let us through. We toured around the academy and had a look at the facility. Lots of early U.S. history, that’s what you get out on the east coast. We drove on through then headed back to the convent for a nap.
More meals, more meetings, more meditation. It was good to have some time to get quiet and also to forge stronger relationships not only with the six of us that came up from Rhode Island but also the diverse group of New Yorkers that we spent the weekend with.
After Sunday’s activities we made the long drive back and felt the peace that only a weekend retreat can deliver.