I had been looking forward to a few days alone at New Camaldoli with unseemly eagerness. When August arrived I had a broken elbow, a dodgy lower back, and a fretful elderly mother who thought I was going specifically so I’d be out of her cell phone range.

I spent the week restless and preoccupied. Hours slipped away walking and doing yoga rather than writing as I tried to stay ahead of the back pain. I worried about my mother even though I told myself I wouldn’t. Alone without distractions the void of my father’s non-existence gaped unexpectedly deep and dark, and against it the ritual of the liturgy felt hollow, even mocking.

In truth, I was rather glad when my husband’s Subaru pulled up in front of my little retreat house and it was time to leave. We spent a night at Moonstone Beach, opened a bottle of wine, set up a tripod and tried to take photos of the moon and the water while our dog snoozed in her bed by the fireplace.

I’ll doubtless return to the hermitage, because there’s something about the remoteness and the quiet that still speaks to my spirit. But I’ll try not to demand that it do the heavy work of restoring my balance and equanimity for me.