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Hermitage Update, April 2000

St. Frances wood statueMorning dove, finch, and nuthatch are at feet of the visiting St Francis wood statue that holds seed and water. Our Australian-retriever mix, Sando, returns the barking of two neighbor dogs up the hill. It is April. Morning overcast gives way to sunshine and light breeze. Mini, the black and white cat is let out to chew early spring grass. This occasional foray of an indoor cat ends as all manner of bird flies to overhead feeder, her ears twitching nervously like airport radar at what approaches. She returns inside.

T.S. Eliot began his poem The Waste Land:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
  Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
  Memory and desire, stirring
  Dull roots with spring rain.

Perhaps the contemplative life is a cruel experience. Webster’s Seventh says of cruel “causing or conducive to injury, grief, or pain.” The word derives from the Latin crudus, which Cassell lists as “bleeding; uncooked, raw; fresh, not prepared; unripe; green, immature, untimely.”

Does the contemplative experience April as suggested by Eliot -- as a time and place of breeding, mixing, stirring? These three activities – to bring about or engender; to combine or blend so that the constituent parts are indistinguishable; to rouse from sleep or indifference, – are as much part of the work of the contemplative as they are of those who deal in manufacturing, finances, farming, or commerce.

The contemplative calling engages these three activities as interior work, first and foremost as the process of embodiment. Engendering a fresh birth, blending what seems fractured and separate into a longing for wholeness, awakening to what life asks we witness – these might be considered cruel tasks. Why cruel?

Cruel: because we’re not prepared; because we’re raw, uncooked; because we’re green, immature; because it doesn’t seem the right time. And, finally, because when we encounter the blade of choice – whether to stay as and where we’ve been, or, move beyond -- that contact makes us bleed.

This is the season of several conjoining Passovers -- in the natural world, in the religious world, in the personal world. Passover, or passing-over, is the celebration of leaving a time of cold darkness and emerging into warm light; leaving the slavery of ancient imprisonments and the horror of sacrificial death for the freedom of wandering in one’s own desert and cultivating a humble, contrite, and gift-receiving heart; leaving the patterns of isolation and disconnection for the flowing freedom of recognizing and engaging one’s true name and face.

Another passing over is at hand. The intuition and insight of nature, religion, and person – says: this is our body; this is our blood. Embodying the intuition, we breed new life, we mix with others, and we stir “dull roots with spring rain.”

Simply trust:
  Do not the petals flutter down?
  Just like that?

Shantih, Shalom, Salaam, Pax, (Hands joined together, a bow),


March 2000 Update
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