Down T'Home

My forest abbey

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Mar 07, 2018

Often, over the years, I have joked, "There must've been a monk up my family tree somewhere," because I've always leaned toward great gobs of solitude. From the chaotic balance of field-flowered meadows or mountainsides basking in sun, from Maine to the Berkshires or Utah to California or wherever, I have felt truly at home only when surrounded by an absence of man's cities and noise-noise-noise.

Even when I was little, I could picture myself perched high on a stool, bent over sheaves of parchment paper, carefully, meticulously etching colorful and intricate "illuminated" volumes of whatever. A bright ray of warming sun always fell through the arched, open adobe window and rested on my head. Combined with long walks in the fields and in the foothills of majestic mountains, I would spend my life quite happily.

When I found myself living in California, I "took in" the famous missions. The little, sun-dappled, adobe "cells" of the clerics and monks with the stark simplicity of bed, chair, candle and table tugged at something familiar, like some long-lost memory.

The same feeling rose up when I walked through the pioneer cabins in the Big Sur forests or Mark Twain's one-room cabin, with the stone fireplace, nestled in the redwoods up in Calaveras County.

"Simplicity, simplicity," wrote Thoreau, a lover of the Maine wilderness. Our "modern" economy does not allow for simplicity.

But out here in the Waldo County "wilderness," one can pretend quite easily. Especially during February and March. Nature lends a hand toward creating the image of isolation, solitude and hushed quiet. In an article titled "In Search of Solitude" (March/April '93, NewAge Journal), it reads: "As Merton (the late Thomas Merton whose home was the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky) wrote: “What matters most about the monastery is that it is radically different from the world....In a world of noise, confusion and conflict, it is necessary that there be a place of silence, inner discipline, and peace.'"

This hits a native chord with most of us. We all crave peace and silence at some time, far away from the "Madding Crowd."

And out here in my little forest haven this winter, I have realized that in this "place of silence," away from the "world of noise." Perhaps like no other time of the year, the past few weeks have been wrapped in silence. It seemed to come with the beginning of the winter’s snows. The higher the blanket of snow wrapped around my little house and carpeted the forest floor, and frosted the trees, the quieter it got. I would go to sleep at night listening to the loud silence. Absolute silence.

Therapy gurus have invented coffin-like boxes that people pay big bucks to crawl into to experience total darkness and solitude. That wouldn't work for me. I'm claustrophobic. I'd be clawing the lid open while screaming like a banshee. But here in my little forest haven, I spend whole nights reveling in such peace. (Except for the periodic intrusions of the furnace and refrigerator noises.)

Now it's March. Each day the sun climbs higher and gets warmer. By this time next month, the buds will be budding, and the birds will be back full force — except the fairy-like hummers. Their arrival is eagerly awaited and tracked from their southern winter home on their way to Maine, usually arriving in May. They may be earlier this year as, like Easter, they dance to the tune of nature and the moon, not our calendars.

But I have enjoyed these weeks of silence and monk-like hibernation, made more so this winter because of the ice that clung to my yard and long driveway for days — or more — on end. Indeed, I ventured down to our Village Store one day last week for the “3 o'clock meeting” of regulars who gather to chew the fat, catch up and share the crossword puzzle. I hadn't gone for weeks. As I sat down, someone remarked: "It must be spring. Look who's here."

I think I could still be happy living the life of the monk or the hermit — as long as I could have my thick mattress, feather pillows, paint pots, books — and hot water spigot.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

 

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