I had the incredible good fortune to spend this past weekend on a 3-day silent retreat at Manresa, the Jesuit retreat center along the Mississippi River north of New Orleans. Manresa is legend in these parts—a place of spirituality, beauty and tradition. I have known about it for years and years, but not being Catholic, had never had the opportunity to go. This year though, through the sponsorship of a couple of friends in my men’s cooking club in Covington, I was able to make the trek.
To say the experience was transformative might not do it justice. The Jesuits have developed a retreat experience that centers around directed instruction, prayer, worhsip and reflection, all taking place in a setting of stunning beauty. Most of the structures on the 120-acre site date back to before the U.S. Civil War, but have been lovingly renovated and maintained.
Not speaking a word for almost 3 days is a changing experience. One can learn a great deal about oneself when all of the chatter falls away. I found this prayerful approach stimulating and richly rewarding, coming away with quite a ‘bucket list’ of things to work on.
Part of my meditation, of course, involved getting up before dawn each day and quietly heading out on the grounds, camera and tripod slung over my shoulder. I was quite lucky—two of my mornings featured a bit of fog, something that I always relish—and I silently went to work, seeing what might happen. The property features not one ‘oak alley’—columns of ancient live oak trees, originally planted from the Mississipi River back to a plantation house—but 3 or 4 alleys, depending upon how you counted them. I almost had trouble deciding where to start with such abundance!
Early dawn mist and mystery, the slowly lifting darkness, the beginning of day: my favorite time to shoot, bar none! Full disclosure though: the mosquitoes were thick, and big enough to carry me off. (What I would have given for a can of bug spray!) I’ll know better next year.
So here are just a few imagesfrom my trip: maybe the beginnings of another project? I’m excited about the possibilities, thrilled to have had the retreat experience, and thankful for how much photography feeds my soul.
If you’ve been too busy to shoot much recently (and that certainly describes me), here’s a bit of advice: pick up your camera and head out the door. I promise, you won’t regret the time spent.
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog