THE GREEN DESERT: A Silent Retreat

Rita Winters, Author . Crossroad/Carlisle $18.95 (219p) ISBN 978-0-8245-2133-2

Stressed out by the relentless pressures of her fast-paced job in advertising, Winters became inspired by a book about sabbaticals. But when she told her boss she wanted some time off, he fired her. Summarily freed from workplace demands, she left her family in Chicago and headed for the Desert House of Prayer, a mountain retreat center near Tucson. What, then, would a compulsive multi-tasker do during 14 days without deadlines? "In doing what the western world regards as 'nothing' I am more mentally occupied and awake than I had been during the busiest 18-hour day in my former life," she recorded in her journal. "Nothing here demands that I go through the motions; it is all uncharted.... When I am not required to do anything, there is more and more I choose to do." She hikes; she gets lost; she prays; she cooks; she confesses. Most of all, she reads—several books a day—quoting passages and summarizing stories that speak to her. Winters writes well, whether describing high-desert flora and fauna or her own inner turmoil; especially moving are the short poem-prayers with which she ends most chapters. Her musings, however, may be realistic to a fault; as journal entries, they recount the experience or insight of the moment but often lack the unity and direction needed to move from the idiosyncratic to the universal. Nevertheless, those who want to know what a silent retreat feels like will find much beauty and wisdom in these recollections. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
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