Foray in the forest to forage
for mushrooms after the rain
I may pass the hermit’s shelter
partially hidden in the circle of trees
Nobody has seen him
he seems to be invisible
The birds know where he lives
in his imperceptible presence.
If I see him I want to ask him
how he listens to silence,
to voice of solitude
Are they silent thoughts?
The hermit laughs
like a mountain brook
lively and clear.
He is bald and has a white beard.
He smiles like your best friend.
To walk through a storm
to hear two birds singing
a sense of peace afterwards
like a boat sitting in a clear stream in solitude
there was once a place
on the earth, in her soul,
a place where each step inward,
an expression of sweetness,
a communion with the divine
An abandoned ladder leaning on the side of a house
a bee loitering over picnic baskets
discoveries in a journal as early as five years ago
and one can penetrate “deeper and deeper
into the same ideas and the same experiences”
and find them new.
My grandmother sits rocking on a porch chair
watching people pass by:
a man slow in walking not from hunger
a woman hurrying not from worry.
Her seventieth birthday jolts her calm existence
spiritual hunger returns to her waking
Sunday church becomes regular than her heart
From the porch she fingers her prayer beads,
sitting quitely in silent incantation,
her cat looks on, stays, hardly any movement.
“…I want to give myself to You without solicitude, without fear or desire, not seeking words or silence, work or rest, light or darkness, company or solitude. For I know I will possess all things if I am empty of all things, and only You can at once empty me of all things and fill me with Yourself, the Life of all that lives and the Being in Whom everything exists.
And this will be my solitude, to be separated from myself so far as to be able to love You alone, and love You so much that I no longer realize I am loving anything…”
-Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence, The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Two 1941-1952
note:this is part of the prayer of Thomas Merton to the Holy Spirit before his solemn, perpetual vows as a priest and Cistercian monk.
note: I’m alone in the mountains. Mrs. Abstract drove to St. George,UT, with our friend, Gloria, who will run 10K in the Senior Games on Monday.
You should not think
you are alone listening to a waterfall
fish hide between slippery stones
upstream deer dip their heads in the river
voices in the forest enter a long narrative
small animals peek in and out in the burrow
solitude shares a vast space
and is not roaming in emptiness.
“The doorways of the present moment are each guarded by an elaborately simple array of distractions that works in tandem with the prayer word.Together they open the doorways to the silent land.”-Martin Laird, INTO THE SILENT LAND
A thousand steps to the library
A thousand steps to the river
How can my mind sit still?
Seize the day
A box of mushrooms,a bundle of asparagus
Today is Farmers Market day.
Will you camel ride with me in the desert?
Will you elephant ride with me in Thailand?
How can my mind sit still?
The blue jay perches alone on the corner of the deck
Good morning, I say.
The bird glances at me, doesn’t fly away.
Are we both thinking
“the opposite braid of solitude?”
“There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it a precarious business. But I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over any encounter, and to extract is juice, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it…” -Mary Sarton, Journal of a Solitude