I haven’t taken time in days to be at my writing desk. I’ve been in meetings of one sort or another, all good, but all taking more concentration than I planned to expend. I come home, take a nap, get caught up on the mounds of email and planning and coordinating my various calendars. Cliff calls me to dinner. I come back to the office, check the online course I’m teaching this summer; and the day moves into the night and bed and sleep only to get up and do it all again.
And now, on an early Saturday evening, when church preparations are done and email caught up and dinner not yet started, I’ve come to my writing place, distinct from the office where daily work calls, to pick up a book by Thomas Merton I’d particularly placed for just such as a time as this.
For there is only one thing left to live for: the love of God. There is only one unhappiness: not to love God. That is why I wish I did not find my soul so full of movement, and shadows and cross-currents of dry wind that stir up the dust of my human desires. Everywhere I turn I find the stuff I write sticking to me like flypaper…my mind is crucified all day by its own hunger for experience, for ideas, for satisfaction.
Indeed. Or like Post-Its on a wall with notes, which I have, filling the wall just at my right elbow for a book that stretches through a passage of twelve years from my initiation by a curandera in Mexico to my ordination in Santa Fe. I’ve lived with this book for years, shape-shifting it in one way or another, and usually into two books. Hence, the wall full of notes. And shelves full of old manuscripts. And files in my computer from one attempt or another.
It’s not that I have any unhappiness-es, really. I don’t. I’m a fortunate woman who lives for and with love. I even trust that I’ll find a pathway through this morass of words and ideas. But the words do stick like flypaper and lately there’s been so many other experiences sticking to me that separating the words from all the other ideas feels like I’m sifting through a pile of dry leaves looking for that one silver thread I lost just as the pile took on three additional layers.
It helps to know that Merton, in his solitary life and little quiet hut (when he wasn’t out teaching or traveling or the many other things he did, including his daily life at the monastery), lived the conflict of a vocation of contemplation and the vocation of writing.
And right now, for this little while I’ve had writing and contemplating with you, life feels less cluttered, my way forward possible, the Post-Its just that…more words for another day.
- Thomas Merton & the Abbey of Gethsemani (greatamericanroadtrip2013.wordpress.com)