28 January 2012

Walking Under Black Pines With Thomas

I'm reading Thomas Merton on a regular basis these days.  A spiritual man who makes me think, in good ways.  His writing has a knack for stunning me with a thought, a phrase, a turn of mind.  Earlier this month, this leapt off the page at me:
I drank a glass of dry sherry and warm! Lovely morning! How lovely life can be!
It was winter, and he had just returned to his hermitage from an early morning recitation of psalms and a rosary.  Settling in by a gas fire, he takes such uncomplicated delight in the actions of the morning finished off with a glass of sherry.

I read that, and knew envy. To know such unfettered joy...

Even without the benefit of gainful employment life has often not held that simplicity for me.  Anxieties, searching, the omnipresent specter of diminishing resources have obscured my inner vision.  I come in from the cold, and instead of the treat of a glass of sherry I find myself supping on worry.

That is not to say I have not had joy and relief.  To the contrary.  I have experienced some wonderful periods of togetherness and love; the difficulty is that the proportions of joy to anxiety are too far weighted to anxiety.  I am working to change them to the good.

Still, I cherish that with which I have been blessed.  Thomas Merton reminded me of that in a simple sentence of three phrases.  Walking with him on a cold winter morning, in the counsel of black pines, I reawakened to the simple joys to be had in this life.  I sit at the dining table, washed in the pearly winter light, and vow to myself to always remember what he had to teach me.

Quotation is from "A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals", in the essay for January 6 entitled 'Winter Hermitage Under Black Pines'. This particular excerpt was written by Fr. Merton on January 5, 1968. I am still pondering what it really means to me. I do know that it brings with it a sense of peace.


  1. Or, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning reminds me from the front of my refrigerator daily, "Earth's crammed with heaven."

  2. No need to sup on worry. It doesn't help. When I worry, I forget the joy.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...