Natalie, it's not the same, not the same at all, at all, not silence for the sake of silence, but in order to make space for something else, and in order to be together with others in a different way... I often don't speak with anyone all day, either, when I'm not at work. Sometimes I welcome this and sometimes I can't bear it. But it's never anything at all like being on retreat.
Jude, gosh I'm touched that you mentioned me in your blog while I was away.
Jean, the monastery where I have occasionally retreated in the past is the Abbey of Gethsemani, in Kentucky--the Trappist monastery where Thomas Merton lived. As I was raised a Catholic, I have enjoyed chanting the psalms and the liturgy of the hours observed there. But I would dearly love to do a retreat at a Zen monastery. A harder thing to find in Tennessee. It will require travel when I do get to do it.