Retreat Day 1

My bedroom opens onto a built in and furnished verandah. It is well set up with ingeniously recycled pieces and is comfortable and beautiful. Out through my windows is that vast sky and the tawny mountains of the Maniototo, looking like a pride of lions snoozing in the sun.

I drove up today, towing the caravan because I go on from here to a family gathering in Nelson. My mother turns 90 next week, so my dearest will, when I arrrive, have temporarily become my nearest, from their accustomed haunts in Stockholm and Perth and Sydney and every part of New Zealand that you could think of. And a few that you couldn't even begin to guess at. I've got an 810km drive on Friday. I'd better rest up.

I will, no doubt, rest here, but this is not actually my retreat. I am observing the silence and joining the prayers but this week I'm attending closely not so much to my own spiritual journey as to that of others. It is an astonishing privilege to be here and to play a part in this still, separated time which is going to change some of these lives. 

My Fitbit is ecstatic. It is fulsome in its praise of me today, because this place is so sprawlingly large that in about 5 hours here I easily clock up my aspirational 10,000 footsteps. As well as the pedestrian requirements of getting to the dining room and the meeting hall, are some wonderful places to hike, and some wide, deep landscapes to try and photograph. My timetable here will be essentially dictated by others, but I'm hoping for a few blocks of time in which to wander. 

The sky reddens and darkens and then is a sprawl of stars. 

I lie here in the silence of this spaciousness.