I was a “troubled teen,” so when I was fifteen my Catholic parents sent me on a retreat at a Benedictine Monastery in the mountains near Snowmass, Colorado. I wasn’t religious then and I’m certainly not religious now, but I have to admit that it truly felt like there was some straight magic going down there. It was surrounded by goddessy groves of trees that you walked through with gnarled walking sticks; there was a meditation room with all windows overlooking twisty trees and canyons and lightning storms at night; there was a benevolent old monk named Father Theofane who cracked jokes; and I had my own romantically minimalistic room with my own patio, where I listened to music and smoked cigarettes endlessly, as troubled teens are wont to do. The monks even chanted like those Gregorian chant CDs, but without the chintzy dance beat in the background. They chanted in the dark, and in the very very early morning the old monks sat against the stone wall under spotlights that had the eerie effect on their faces of flashlights while telling ghost stories, and they read very animatedly from the Bible, which normally bored me, but they looked like strange cartoon characters with thick coke bottle glasses, and it became really mystical and strange.
In a weird twist of fate, I even met my first serious boyfriend there, though we didn’t date for a long time; he was the preacher’s son (so also troubled! score), and we connected while watching an especially vibrant heat lightning storm and smoking pot.
That place was amazing. Now that I’m a grownup of sorts, I wonder if it would be weird to go back but still smoke cigarettes pot and not actually be into their religion…I think getting away with it back then was one of the few perks of being a “troubled teen.”