Every year I enjoy the opportunity of taking College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University students dog sledding in Ely, Minn., with Paul Schurke at Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge. Today, I received an e-mail from a former musher participant asking me “if I was getting ready for the dog sledding retreat”? She went on to tell me how much that retreat impacted her life. I can’t take credit for the effect of the retreat; my contribution is gathering students, organizing retreat details, and then getting out of the way to let God work. The significant impact of this retreat comes from being outside, immersed in the pristine beauty of the Boundary Waters and sledding with a team of trustworthy dogs who become a major part of the adventure. Add to that the integrating effect of participation in the monastic rhythm of prayer, silence, reflection, discernment and building community.
A typical day begins early (7 a.m.) so as not to miss the beauty of the sunrise and the crisp morning air. What could be more welcoming than the dogs’ greeting, howling with joy to see the students? The morning chore of feeding the dogs and being the "pooper scoopers," grounds the students in the essentials of life and duty. To get them out of bed in minus 35 degree weather is truly a miracle! Over a hearty breakfast that follows, they’re alive with stories of affectionate interaction with the dogs and with the beauty of early morning despite frozen eyelashes and bitter cold! I often sense this is a form of lectio (the Benedictine practice of prayerful reading) --truly a mystery and gift.
Trish Dick, OSB