Vocation to Solitude -- To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills, or sea, or desert; to sit still while the sun comes up over the land and fills its silences with light. To pray and work in the morning and to labor in meditation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars. This is a true and special vocation. There are few who are willing to belong completely to such silence, to let it soak into their bones, to breathe nothing but silence, to feed on silence, and to turn the very substance of their life into a living and vigilant silence.
~ Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
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It’s cold here today. Rainy, cold and gray. The kind of morning when, if left to my own devices, I’d curl up on the couch by a roaring fire with a good book and wait until spring to emerge. But responsibility calls and so I continue on my way, sometimes with a stern word here and there to keep the children on track, to arrive at school on time, to make sure all papers are signed, fees paid, lunches in tow. I smile and greet the friendly parents and teachers I encounter in this daily routine and yet, somedays, it’s very much a struggle to go through these pleasantries. Anyone who battles depression knows exactly what I mean.
I might blame it on the weather, circumstance, international news or the virus I’ve battled for the past week, whatever the cause, my outlook has been dour lately. It’s in times like this that I have a tendency to isolate myself and brood. I probably don’t have to tell you this is most unproductive, unhealthy and a great waste of time. I know it’s true...I just have to get up again.
And so it is that I said my dry prayers, went out into the gray rain for a visit with Jack, my horse of 28 years, after taking the children to school. I stopped to pick up some apples and carrots, the usual treat for my noble friend. The rain fell in a steady downpour and formed large droplets which fell from my hood in a rhythmic way. The brisk 45º air felt good in my lungs and the gratifying aromas of hay and fresh mud brought gladness to my heart.
The farm where I board my horse is a place of quiet retreat. Although the owners live on the property, their home is a good walking distance from the barn and so, often I go out, unseen, to enjoy the quiet. No, “enjoy” is the wrong word...
I think of Thomas Merton and his many writings on silence... I cannot find the exact quote now, but I believe it was him that said something like, [paraphrase] ‘ I often go out in the forest, early in the morning just before sunrise, and let the silences do their work in me’
Let the silence do its work in me...
That’s exactly what I experience at the farm. A healing antidote to all the negativity swimming in my mind. A place where God’s voice is clearly heard and all is put into proper perspective. Not for the first time today do I wonder, why do I only seek places of healing silence when I’m at my wits end? Why do I not make a habit of such care for my spirit?
On this morning, another blessing awaited me there: my friend Laura who owns the property. Coincidentally ... as was meant to be, she had taken the day off from work which afforded us the opportunity to catch up. Standing in the barn, with rain beating down on the tin roof and listening to the horses munch hay, we shared concerns of the heart a few laughs and encouraged one another. It had been too long since our last visit and considering that we struggle on the same path at times, we were a balm for each others soul today.
Glory to God for all things. †
* painting of Thomas Merton hangs in Corpus Christi Church, found here.