“Whose silence are you?”
After Thomas Merton
The single eye of the sun long shut,
world deep asleep like a sunken ship loaded with treasures,
full moon’s fierce shadows illumine the way for miles,
stars glint like coins dropped to the well’s black bottom,
last apple fallen from the tree
in a slush of honey and crimson.
I walk barefoot across wet grass,
night’s questions relentlessly wrestling
in my mind’s knotted weave.
I look for answers written by salmon in the stream,
or a snail’s slither of streaming silver.
I prostrate myself at the gnarled foot of the ash tree.
River softly murmurs her secrets.
Then the wind departs, taking words with it.
Hush cracks open, and
blankets my moss-covered dreams
under the mute howl of night.
The long slow leaving of voices reveals
the ancient song of repose.
I awaken covered with dew,
stillness shaken by a single robin.
No longer full of my own echoing emptiness,
I am able to hear at last.
—Christine Valters Paintner
Dearest dancing monks,
Saturday is the 100th birthday of Thomas Merton. Above is a poem I wrote for our icon series inspired by Merton and his love of Silence. The quote on the icon is adapted from the beautiful words he wrote at the end of his book New Seeds of Contemplation in which he invites us to "hear God's call and follow God in God's mysterious, cosmic dance."
This weekend also brings us to the Celtic feast of Imbolc and the feast of St. Brigid. It is a beautiful time to seek silence and listen for the very early stirrings of new life.I know some of you in the Northeast U.S. have had a blizzard these last couple of days, so perhaps the promise that spring is coming soon is a welcome dream to hold onto.
Here in Ireland, I can feel the seeds of spring as the earth continues to turn toward more light in a very visible way since the Winter Solstice. I have noticed birds starting to sing again in the mornings just the last day or two.
John and I will be heading to Kildare for an evening ritual on Saturday in celebration of Brigid, and then on to Glendalough for a couple of days of retreat and planning for our upcoming young adult pilgrimage in March (there is one space for a male participant if you know of someone in their 20s or 30s who might like to be immersed in Celtic wisdom and a beautiful place).
Inspired by this sacred turning of the seasons we are delighted to be bringing you a brand new program called Sacred Seasons 2015: A Yearlong Journey through the Celtic Wheel of the Year. I have wanted to offer something like this for a long time and finally the season feels ripe. You can read more details below, and sample the first mini-retreat for Imbolc for free! Feel free to share this gift with others and consider joining us for a soulful journey through the year together. When you register by February 16th you receive a discount and can join our secret Facebook group to share signs of Imbolc around you and within you.
We have been slowly preparing for the upcoming Lenten online retreat and I am getting very excited about it, with all new material on some of my favorite themes, weaving them together in new ways, and new stories of desert and Celtic monks. Join John and myself for a heart-centered journey through Lent in a community of fellow dancing monks. Whether you choose to participate in the online discussion or not, there is always a lively and heartfelt exchange happening there, and it is a gift to feel yourself connected to it. We do also offer some partial scholarships and group discounts, so gather some friends and move through the retreat together.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo top: Sacred Seasons – Christine Valters Paintner
PS – if you have wanted to join me for a live retreat in 2015, one space in a single room has opened up in our Coming Home to Your Body Retreat April 17-21, 2015 in the Pacific Northwest!