Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

High Desertion

A Quiet Escape…

“True prayer and love are learned in that hour when prayer becomes impossible, and the heart has turned to stone.” Thomas Merton

American Trappist monk, mystic, writer, theologian, and social activist Thomas Merton foresaw my weary soul’s yearning as I count down the days until I return to the high desert of New Mexico for silence, prayer, and the invisible holding by the Infinite Spirit.

Completely off the grid, my communication will be with the musical whispers of the wind, the constant hum of the Chama River, the swish of the eagles flying overhead, and sound of bells ringing me into the Sanctuary to pray. I will be escorted along the dirt road from my cell to the Sanctuary by horse, goats, chickens, and cows. And hopefully, nothing more menacing than these creatures watching over the monks who care for this lone spot of earth.

I admit I am tired. Facing the hurts of old have opened my heart in unexpected ways and this laying bare is also asking for a respite. My soul is looking to surrender. I am desperate to release the grip of old wounds and breathe in the Spirit that has always been here holding me up. I do not want to lean against the tree for balance. I want the tree to grow in me. And I am happy to and ready to drop to my knees to feel that strength. Drop to my knees and pray.

American novelist and non-fiction writer, Anne Lamott has said:

“Prayer … begins with stopping in our tracks, or with our backs against the wall, or when we are going under the waves, or when we are just so sick and tired of being physically sick and tired that we surrender, or at least we finally stop running away and at long last walk or lurch or crawl toward something. Or maybe, miraculously, we just release our grip slightly.”

In the utter silence of the desert of New Mexico, darkness wrapping its blanket of night around me, I will ask for help. I will open my heart, and I will thank the God of all for this moment illuminated only by the endless sky of stars. I will bow to the Presence, turning away from all things created so I can feel the Creator in that single moment.

As I sit amidst the aging monks who so reverently have devoted their lives to the search for God in themselves and each other, I will carefully consider what qualities I need to be most kind and most welcoming, as Saint Benedict would encourage. I will query deeply upon what is most difficult for me to give up, what patterns do I fall into without thinking, and how predictable are my falls and fails. I will humbly tell of my heartaches and my weaknesses and ask for Her help through loving grace.

And I will find the safety that is contained in releasing my struggles over to the One who can carry them with ease. I will drop into the arms of the divine majesty knowing that I am being held unconditionally. The tree will then grow within me because I will have found the Source of my strength.

Jesuit Brother David Steindel-Rast is quoted as saying: “It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” In deep gratitude I will embrace the silence, prayer and love that is being gifted me in the secluded high desert of New Mexico over this Thanksgiving Season. This gratitude will open my heart and soul to a welcome renewal.

Blessings to all of you during the coming weeks. May this be a season of renewal for each of you in your own way along your journey.

Until next time, friends.


  1. Love this Bess! What did you mean by “I want the tree to grow in me”? I painted that same concept in one of my latest paintings but I am still trying to articulate what it means.

    1. What a beautiful question. Thank you.
      I want to find the Source of my strength that resides deep within me at all times. I tend to forget it is there and look to outside things to lean on for strength. If I am still enough, I can find that Source and stand firmly on my own. I can love harder. I can lift others better. I can be ME truthfully. There is that tree in all of us just waiting to be found. Listen and you will find your Source.
      Thank you again for the question.

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