Let there be a place somewhere in which you can breathe naturally, quietly, and not have to take your breath in continuous short gasps. A place where your mind can be idle, and forget its concerns, descend into silence, and worship the Father in secret. – Thomas Merton

The Hollow of a Hand

The Farm Lane This Morning

I am head over heels in love with the farm in spring.  From the miniature, red forest of the returning peonies to the coral reef of sedum to the flagrant gold of the forsythia, I am smitten.

I have found my place where I can “breathe naturally.”

The farm sits in a basin, a dip that a geologist told me yesterday was formed when the rocks folded as Africa collided with North America.  We are below the horizon on every side. We are cupped in a hollow of solitude.


At the conference from which I just returned, I found much of what I needed – focus for my work, companionship with other writers, time away from the farm a bit. But more, I was reminded of something about myself that is so fundamental that I often miss it – I am fed by life in the country.  My soul drinks it in, stands face-up in the rainstorm of nature and simplicity that is a rural existence.

I was reminded that in these hallowed hollows of birdsong and bloom I find truth.

In one session, the poet Maurice Manning sang the office of None that at that moment the monks at Gethsemane – a place I ache to visit – were singing in their cloister. Tears poured down my cheeks in this crowd of 13,000 people who – at least it seemed in the convention center – mostly let themselves cry on the page.

Manning was part of a panel about Thomas Merton in the 21st century, and each of the presenters (including Greg Wolfe, the editor of Image, a journal that lets me see all of me on its pages) talked about Merton’s influence on their lives.  I sank deep in my chair and almost imagined I could see blossoms in the walls of the split-apart ballroom.

Their words urged me back to Merton’s, echoed me back home.


Now, here, where I can see the weeping cherry solemn in her vibrant glory, where I just noticed that the dogwood by the foundation of the slave quarter will be – today maybe – fronded with pink, I give thanks with tears again for birdsong and blossom, rooster cry and goat thunder, for the folded, rocky hollow of a hand that holds me.

Tomorrow, Monday, April 13th, Shawn Smucker will be here at God’s Whisper to read from his novel The Day The Angels Fell.  We’re gathering at 5pm for a potluck supper, and then we’ll light the bonfire, toast some s’mores, and let Shawn lift us with his words. The event is FREE and open to anyone who would like to join us.  Children are most welcome.  Please be in touch if you need directions or have any questions.  Hope to see you here.