Thomas Merton (1915-1968) (Photo credit: DUCKMARX)
“How necessary it is for monks to work in the fields, in the rain, in the sun, in the mud, in the clay, in the wind: these are our spiritual directors and our novice-masters. They form our contemplation. they instill us with virtue. They make us as stable as the land we live in”
The season of Fall offers many reflections for the monk and artist. Nature is one source of revelation. Helen Waddell‘s Beasts and Saints is filled with stories of saints from the Western monastic tradition. who had encounters with animals. Once a day I have occasion to see deer in the yard. Or a walk in the words lets me know that a coyote is nearby. Today there were several wooly bears and also orange butterflies.
In one of his letters Thomas Merton describes the ideal monastic life: “The monk here and now is supposed to be living the life of the new creation in which right relation to all the rest of God’s creatures is fully restored.” The poet Kenneth Jackson wrote of the hermits: “The woodland birds might sing to him around his cell, but through it all, rarely expressed, always implicit, is the understanding that the bird and hermit are joining together in an act of worship; to him the very existence of nature was a sort of praise in which he himself took part by entering into harmony with nature” (Studies in Early Celtic Nature Poetry).
When on a walk I try to be present to the animals and the trees they are my abbas and ammas. I practice listening. This is a source from which all loving is possible. Each step is in gratitude to the Divine artist.