We still have one area of the monastery that is heated by furnace and it has finally gotten cold enough to turn it on. Tonight I heard it crank up for the first time this season.
When it kicks on, which it does for a brief while twice a day, it sounds like a choir of anvils, iron striking iron, a jarring, discordant un-cadence of noise, as if it were a giant cast iron metronome that has lost all metrical memory and is staggering around under the weight of a Wagnerian opera. I mean, it is loud.
Even so, I smiled out loud when I heard it. The sound made me happy. It is getting cold. It is our familiar furnace. It is crazy loud. But it is a sound of home, a leitmotif that speaks of warmth, of cozy-ness, of familiarity, of family, of my sisters. Of home.
The sounds of the monastery are, like angels, myriad upon myriad. From the gentle rhythm of our monastic chant, to the blazing organ on big feast days, to the footfalls of sisters that you know by heart, to the crackle of ice when the breakfast table-waiter fills the metal milk bin, to the click of the chapel door that tells you you either did or didn’t close it all the way, to the countless thumps and bumps associated with every corner of the monastery… All are leitmotifs of home – sounds of comfort, of familiarity, of the love of sisters, of being at home in the world in this place called Sacred Heart Monastery.
When the crazy loud furnace kicks on, the choir of anvils doesn’t suddenly sound like a choir of angels. But the jarring, discordant sounds do somehow take on a kind of melodic quality. A weightlessness like that of joy. A rhythm like that of peace. A leitmotif that says “home.”
Postscript: A familiar old sound has recently come back home. Our old pendulum clock that has been on the 1st floor of Ottilia Hall since around 1940 was removed before the renovation. It had not been working properly for a while, and so it was sent away to be repaired and renewed. It was put back in place last week. We are grateful for the return of this familiar old clock.