I have returned from a week at Cape May NJ, where it rained more than usual for August, and where I did, along with family, the things we do each year to remind us (though scattered around the country, though re-shaping who we are as our lives unfold), that we have our own rituals of being and belonging to one another. There is no one to whom I more belong or feel more comforted by than my son. Anyone who can say this is surely blessed.
I have several books to report on, but the book I am currently reading is The Sign of Jonas, by Thomas Merton. I am reading it slowly and marking many lines and passages. I see a long poem emerging, just using Merton’s words, and offering them up anew. I am reminded of (no, it is more that I am re-living) the peace and turmoil of viewing my being from a spiritual vantage. I am reminded of two years during which I was busy with many things, but also spent hours studying and writing and talking about spiritual things, in pursuit of becoming a chaplain, which was not to be. There was a peacefulness in that endeavor that I now miss terribly. Merton was a wonderful guide then, and he remains so now. Here are a few lines, taken out of context, changed in some ways that I hope are heterodox but not heretical, and re-woven into a shape that fits me, not perfectly, but well enough.
Queen of heaven, I love you.
The plank bed is an altar and you lie
there without trying to understand
in what sense you can be called to sacrifice.
Outside the world, where it is night,
someone sees he has done something
horrible. The Spirit breathes where it will,
renunciation is your natural faculty.
What I wrote then is the same as I write now.
A buzzard investigates me, but I am not dead yet.
I was out picking apples and broke a branch.
I am living inside walls without metaphors.
A straw mattress can be very comfortable.
I have warm clothes. I offer my pride to be slain
on this particular altar. The whole earth
is leavened with apostles scraped off pots
in the kitchens of the Greeks. My fingers
too much run my own life. The first essential is missing.
I put on a winter shirt before Night Office
although it is not yet desperately cold.
Once in a while, we break silence,
but it is worth it. When we are called upon
to die, we shall die miserably. She made pilgrimage
to Lourdes walking barefoot across France.