Monday, February 1, 2010

A Hermitage of One's Own

I'm slogging through the life of Thomas Merton right now.

I say 'slogging' because he writes incredibly dense sentences like "Nevertheless, after a couple of months of it, I got to a state where phrases like 'the Good, the True, and the Beautiful' filled me with a kind of suppressed indignation, because they stood for the big sin of Platonism: the reduction of all reality to the level of pure abstraction, as if concrete, individual substances had no essential reality of their own, but were only shadows of some remote, universal, ideal essence filed away in a big-card index somewhere in heaven, while the demi-urges milled around the Logos piping their excitement in high, fluted, English intellectual tones."

I mean, Merton say what?

And I probably should be posting this on the religion thing I got going on elsewhere, but listen, I'm gonna channel my high school biology teacher and yell out in a voice clearly on the verge of a nervous breakdown: If you don't like it you can leave!

(To which I promptly laughed and almost got kicked out of class. Seriously, I had a laughing problem. Always laughed at the WORST TIMES EVER.)

If you don't know, Thomas Merton was raised with no particular religious background, but found Catholicism in college and converted. He later joined the Trappists in Gethsemani and promptly became one of the most famous monks evah. (I just skipped a whole hell of a lot of background there.) This because he had quite the literary proclivity and at the encouragement of his superior, wrote his memoir The Seven Storey Mountain, from which the lengthy sentence I quoted above was taken.

At a later point, Merton had a hermitage built on the grounds of the monastery, providing him with a means for greater solitude. (This part isn't within the book I'm reading. But whatevs.)

And this is actually the reason why I'm writing here. Because I'd kind of like to have a hermitage.

I was actually thinking that it should go in the place where Dave is planning on building the girls a playhouse this summer. While co-opting that space for myself will not win me mother of the year, it might win me a few moments of Merton-like solitude.

I'm not sure how I would outfit it, though. Spare and bare, a la a monk's abode? Basic but with a few luxuries, like a pillow or two? And what, exactly, would I do in there? Simply hide? Read? Sit with eyes focused on a woody knot in one of the planks, and stare until my eyes water and burn?

One of the things about parenthood is that when you do get a moment for yourself, you tend to not know how to spend it. How many times have you heard a parent say that they had a block of time to do something, alone, and then they ended up spending a decent portion of that time actually deciding what to do?

So who knows? Maybe I would just sit there, but I imagine just sitting there might feel pretty good anyway.

Also, I would love the chance to say, "Pardon me children, but mommy is going out to the hermitage."

If you could go all Thomas Merton on the world, and create your own getaway on your own property, what would you outfit it with? And what would you do there?

6 comments:

Meg said...

kelly, love your new place, here.
i must have channeled your thoughts this evening: kian was in bed by 5 pm FOR THE NIGHT and daniel was at work... and I had NO IDEA WHAT TO DO! no dinnertime required and no bath time ritual. i puttered around for awhile before i realized the valuable time being wasted... and soon found myself, in the stillness, barefoot on a yoga mat.

Kelly said...

Wow. 5pm! That's one tired little dude.

Glad some peace came of it for you. I have a heck of a time slowing down and just being. I think it's a skill to be learned!

Indigo Children said...

i love the idea of a hermitage. boddhi went to parent's day out yesterday, and I realized it was the first time i had been alone -- without kids or husband in a long time. it felt so nice. i drank tea and studied (which was not so nice) -- and generally felt like myself.

i would make my hermitage really really warm -- a fireplace maybe -- cozy carpets, blankets, tea...a small heater. I would have a comfy daybed maybe with lots of old quilts -- an old rocking chair -- something to write with / on that does not offer access to Internet.

I would settle for a room -- or even a small closet :)

Rima said...

Oooo, I love this! I would make myself a writing studio hermitage. It would just be a little hut out back, but with many windows, a desk, and also a low futon for naps and lots of cushions in vibrant colors strewn about the floor.

Also, Thomas Merton would NEVER have passed eighth grade composition. Sheesh.

Monica said...

A writing table, a comfortable chair, and a really comfy warm place to lie down, with pillows and such. What would I do there? I think I'd do a lot of sitting in silence, which I find I crave more and more these days. After that, maybe let the silence tell me what to do next.

The Homesteading Hussy said...

I would house my hermit crabs in my hermitage. And then I would invite all my hermit friends over to race them. All kidding aside, I have dreams of three hermitages I want to put in our woods, decked out in antique furniture and beautiful linens, and tiny woodstoves. All the city folk would pay big money to come sleep in the woods and have homemade scones delivered to their door step in the morning. I would charge extra for bear sightings. Oh, to have hermitage dreams. Thanks for taking me there.

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