Saturday, April 27, 2013

Thomas Merton's Hermitage...

Click here to learn more about Merton as a teacher...
   I was finally there! I didn't think I would get the opportunity to visit Thomas Merton's hermitage as it was off limits to the casual visitor to the abbey but here I was, thanks to Brother Paul.  The late day light streaked the field in front of the simple cinder block building and I thought it appropriate that the dirt road ended several hundred feet from the door.  It gave the place an even greater sense of  separation from the world.  This is the place that Merton had called "home" for the last few years of his life.  I was very pleased to hear that it is still used by the monks for solitary retreats.  It is in no way a "shrine" except to the peaceful soul searching that takes place inside by whomever uses it.  We had come with Brother Paul to talk about his poetry but when we stepped inside I was overwhelmed my Merton's presence in the cool dark interior.  As we sat and listened to Brother Paul discuss the Boston bombings and the tortured souls who had conceived it, the wind chime on the porch began to tinkle...such a sweet and happy sound.  Despite the sad beginning to the talk, there was a sense of hope and lightness here. (Hear the late Fr. Matthew Kelty read one of Merton's most famous prayers...)

Click here to hear Merton recite his poem, Solitary Life...
   I have a greater appreciation for why Merton felt this need for a place of solitary reflection.  Since I've returned, I find I miss the quiet and peace of the abbey and the Shaker village.  The world can be "too much with us" at times.  This bench is on the porch of the hermitage.  It is a gentle reminder for those of us who pursue contemplative photography that it is necessary to just sit for a time, to be still and to just listen.  It asks us to not be in such a hurry.  I would like to end with another of Brother Paul's poems that he read to us at the hermitage.  One of my resolves from this trip is to pursue the poetic form.  It seems a natural extension for my photographs but I have a long way to travel before I approach Brother Paul's way with words...

The Gentle Folds of Contemplation
Jail Girls

Jailed in the same cage
of tree branches, vagrant girls
Venus and Moon
keep their separate sides,
uncomfortable strangers each
held on suspicion.

Come dawn, they sailed forth,
by trials of a night made
angels on a lark.

Next night say the pair -
Venus forging ahead,
Moon smudged, waning thin
slowly falling back - 
big girl just can't keep up with
sweet pearl of the sky.

They'll go separate ways,
and meet in a month or two 
for another fling.

1 comment:

kimmanleyort said...

Wonderful reflections, Patricia and I absolutely love that image of Brother Paul and his poetry.