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Monk in the World Guest Post: Pat Slentz

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Pat Slentz’s reflection and poem “Touchdown into a Silence.”

I greatly appreciate the joy and perspective that living in the mountains brings me.  For me, the mountains are the perfect metaphor for the up and down struggles we face in our pilgrimage through this life.  The sounds and sights of mountaintops and valleys both open me to the expanse of God’s love and creation and strengthen my connection to Spirit.  Photographing the beauty of Colorado on long walks with my husband has been a daily contemplative practice that has brought me relief, inspiration and renewal, especially during this past year of the pandemic.   I recently found inspiration from poet Joy Harjo’s opening lines of her lovely “Eagle Poem”: “To pray you open your whole self/To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon/To one whole voice that is you.”  I feel very blessed to experience such gratitude for the beauty around us that continues to overshadow the darkness so prevalent in our world.

Touchdown into a Silence

(Inspired by Joy Harjo’s “Eagle Poem”)

As the soft gargle of winter’s winding river calms
my inner chatter, I begin to hear a tiny orchestra warming up –
blue tit piccolo, Downey’s staccato percussion,
plaintive cry of red-breasted Nuthatch, a distant oboe –
silence is not always still.
A flicker’s shrill wake-up call halts my walk
calling me to absorb his anxiety, notice his delicate beauty.

Ducks in tuxedos dive deep, then pop up unexpectedly
across Jayhawker pond. One never knows
where the ripples end when you let go of formalities.
Last Saturday in Barr Lake’s rookery
I saw momma eagle’s white head
peering out above huge nest,
while father stood patiently on lake’s ice
like the fishermen I’ve seen drilling holes
to sink their lines of hope.

I can’t help smiling when I witness a goose couple
strolling on the ice, one giving the other advice.
Other geese fly in, honking like subcompacts
in an Italian round-a-bout, a fluctuating formation
circling downward, wings extended,
their bodies suddenly jerk upright,
skidding, spraying, brakeless as sea planes,
colliding to an abrupt stop on river’s surface.
No responsibilities – just carefree splashing
in melting river, great wings flapping, reminding me
of undiapered children in a summer pool.

As I’ve journeyed through this long pandemic,
I grieve how little remains the same.
On high red cliffs over Watson Lake
the massive eagle’s nest sadly sits empty
and abandoned nests along the north shore of Boyd Lake
contain no gray owl fluff this spring.
To pray I must open my whole self to what is now.
Can I truly listen to the unheard silence,
play freely like the birds, willing to let go of control,
content not to be so darn certain about things?

Pat Slentz enjoys a quiet but full life as a spiritual director and labyrinth facilitator in Fort Collins, CO, where she retired in 2016 after working as a UCC Commissioned Minister, hospice chaplain and hospital chaplain in northern New Mexico.  

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