A New Place to Call Home
Christmastide greetings to you all!
Surprise!!! I have a new home. On the Monday before Christmas I slipped off of Eagle Island in the trough between two storms, and early that afternoon closed on a little house in Stonington, Maine, a picturesque little fishing village about five miles from Eagle. It will serve as the staging platform for my hermit times out on the island, and for my travels and local teaching during the other seasons of my life.
I was as surprised as anyone else that this all dropped into my lap, and I admit it represents a compromise between my dreams of hermit solitude and the lived reality of a life given increasingly to travel and teaching. Getting to and from Eagle Island, even in summer when the mail boat runs daily, is always a bit of a push, and in the off-season when the boat runs two days a week at best (with wind and weather determining which two these will be), trying to schedule teaching and travel commitments made months in advance is simply not sustainable. The only way to be on Eagle Island in the off-season is to BE here—clear the decks and simply hunker down. I am planning to do exactly that this coming February and have cleared the decks accordingly. But my intuitions—and now my commitments—have indicated that this will be the exception rather than the rule.
It’s taken a lot of discernment to get to this point. I love this little hermitage I’ve gradually built out here on Eagle, on which I hold a lifetime lease (but don’t actually own.) As I write this, it’s a luminous beautiful, calm night on the first day of the “gaining” of the light. Yep, it’s still functionally dark at 4 pm and pitch black by 5. But each day we’ll be gaining now…And my little Advent wreath burns brightly with its four candles, and I chant the psalms and slip into silence in this magnificent, mystical heart of a Christmas season and am happy to be absolutely nowhere else…
But I know, too, that hermitting is not something one takes upon oneself simply as a lifestyle choice or even a spiritual preference. This quiet listening space is all important in my life. But what I consistently hear in the listening is that the teaching is important, too, and in fact even more than the silence is the place of obedience, continuing covenant with Rafe, and continuing fruitfulness.
Damn! My hermit teacher is still telling me I can’t be a full-time hermit????
And yet I know that something has been coming into being, and I am a player in that coming-in-to-being, with the Wisdom Schools as the epicenter of where my contribution being called forth. I am accountable to this unfolding as well, and realize in my heart-of-hearts that it would simply be irresponsible to drop out in favor of the holy homesteading life on Eagle. That gift will come, in time, if it is to come. But for now, I seem to have to steer my life down the channel that has been carved for it.
And so it all just casually came together this fall. The day after Labor Day I sailed my boat down to Stonington for its winter haul-out. I spotted the house right at the top of School Street and casually arranged for a tour. It’s a modest little one-person place, but I liked its feel, and I particularly liked that due to the fact that School Street takes a jog right below the house, I wind up with an unobstructed water view, looking out over the harbor and the islands beyond the Deer Isle Thorofare. The price was about $100,000 lower than anything comparable in the neighborhood, so I thought, “Why not?” and casually put in a slightly low offer. I was stunned when it was immediately accepted.
The next steps just kept opening. My closest friends all gave the prospect their thumbs up. The bank approved me for a 4% mortgage (despite all the horror stories out there), and while it was indeed a fight to the finish, with an 11th hour grand finale, all the pieces wound up falling into place. Helpful people kept showing up. The money came together with some INCREDIBLE help from friends and family. And mirabile dictu! The day of our scheduled closing fell in the trough between two storms, and I made it off Eagle Island.
What now? For a while, there will be no dramatic change in my life rhythms. The house came with a tenant already in place, and I plan to keep him there for a bit longer while I do my winter hermiting on Eagle this February and take some time for a long overdue assessment of priorities and facing of those inner tasks which present themselves so quietly, insistently, to those of us in our sixties.
But my little house is waiting for me there in Stonington—a good house, whose former owner actually reads my books and does Centering Prayer! When I asked Abba Joseph at Snowmass what role he thought the place might have to play in my life, he ventured immediately, “Stabilitas.” And he’s right, I think. After a decade now of circling the globe, with East Coast operations, West Coast operations, my dear Canada friends, my UK and NZ friends, and all options open, I at least now know where home is.
To all of you who have borne with me, prayed with me, and supported me throughout these years of journeying, my heartfelt thanks. I feel curious but remarkably graced as I share with you all this next stepping stone in the river that is my life.
I thank God for this development in your life and I thank you for sharing so much with us. Your particular mix of contemplation and action is so important for the world today. Listening to you and reading you and practising Centering Prayer is changing my life, or rather I should say, helping me to be more fully awake to life. I flew from Wales to Dublin to see you last October and I look forward to seeing and listening to you again in Assisi in May.
My mother, sister, and I were so fortunate to attend your retreat at Omega Institute in September 2011 together. What a wonderful learning experience we had! One we will never forget. I am mesmerized by your teachings, still striving to completely understand all of them. As a full-fledged seeker, I see in you someone who has sought and found. Your generosity and your willingness to teach and share your thoughts and findings have had a large impact on my life…. and I’m sure on many others as well. Thank you!
Roots and Wings! I am so very happy for you Cynthia, and for Lilly too!!
Much love – as always, Bronwen
Cynthia, your report touches so many themes that have been coming into being for me. My own stabilitas intent is to stay grounded physically at all times – feet and/or seat firmly attached to the earth, and even as if they are shooting down into the earth. That “great giant battery of chi,” as one teacher calls it.
Thanks also to all who have replied. In temporary solitude on New Year’s Eve, when kids and grandkids, some of whom are visiting from out of town, had left for their own pursuits, I received the gift of your wisdom, and reply today while still in solitude, with the dishwasher and clothes dryer running in anticipation of their return.
Here in Houston it is sunny and cool, perfect for the playground later. May each of you receive your own perfect blessing on this first day of the new year 2012.
dearest sensei: I leap with joy at your latest news! Stabilitas! At long last! As a ‘kindred spirit’ who longs for the very same, I can revel in your miraculous find! I wish you all the peace & joy such sacred space can bring. I visited a mate of mine once in Eagel Lake, Maine, whilst studying at UVM in Burlington (in 1985). As my memories of those days fade, one does not — that trip. It reminds me of Fr. rohr’s favorite poet, Mary Oliver and her poem “Wild Geese”. My prayer for you, dearest one, is that you expereince the love and abundance of God in your newfound hermitage, and that you can perchance catch a rare glimpse of the “Cosmic Dance” Fr. Merton once expereinced: “When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children, when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash–at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the ‘newness,’ the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.” May it be so!!! AAM
Oh, Cynthia, I’m so happy for you.
Obviously, the Christ Child decided to give you a gift for Christmas. How wonderful when life’s events all
come together to clear a path for a new beginning.
May God continue to bless you and your work. And thank you for being a huge part of my life.
How blessed to have a home, a place on the planet to return to as you continue to listen to the calls that come to you. I too love having a sense of where you are when you are “home” and my heart smiles seeing the image of your home and hearing of the surrounding environment.
I continue to be encouraged by you, your ways of articulations and all that you offer in your gift of presence and teaching in the world. May the time in retreat continue to be fruitful. Many blessings in the new year. Lynn
The spiritual dove-tailing you demonstrate, Cynthia! You are a promise of what can happen when we move aside and pay attention. I hope your ears have been ringing…you’ve been in my mind and heart a lot over the past year.
Thank you for sharing this delightful news, Cynthia. I am very happy to hear that you have found a home in Maine and that your teaching willing continue to flow out into the world. You will always be a hermit in your heart and solitude is a constant companion. Many blessings on this new habitat and this next chapter of your life of prayer and illumination.
I am pleased for you, Cynthia, and hearing about you new home gives me a much needed feeling of stability right now – to know that you are open to a settling place.
Many blessings on your new home Cynthia. I hope and trust that it will indeed bring you anchoring and stability, and that it will be a place where you will find nourishment and peace to sustain you on your contemplative mission. I’m glad your teacher Rafe’s guidance is for you to continue with your important and prophetic teaching work. We look forward to seeing you in Norwich again sometime. With love, Liz
I love the ebb and the flow. I have found this as well.
Every blessing in your new refuge. Hermitting does seem to be something of a paradox. Maybe because it is a time of searching in today’s world there is still the need for some to be the teacher as well. May you find balance in both. +
I’m anxious to experience your special thoughts & grace
Thanks for sharing your journey, Cynthia. I’ve been retired and living mostly a hermit life of silence and solitude these past six years. I am fortunate to have a spouse who supports me in that. This past year my daughter, who lives just ten minutes away gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, who is now almost ten months old. This new young family has needed help with reliable child care two days a week so my daughter can take care of cancer patients in the local hospital as a a trained oncology nurse and help support the family. So this has become my ministry, in addition to the solitude and prayer I care for my new granddaughter. It’s a ministry of changing diapers, feedings, but mostly a ministry of presence, so it’s a good fit for this hermit life, in addition to the cooking and cleaning I do for our house hold. I am so blessed to have this life. My granddaughter is named Matilda after my grandmother, the person who gave me a home and helped raise me to adult life when I needed it. Life has come full circle, and my life of prayer has found new purpose and fruitfulness.
Isn’t it amazing when we are faithful to the mystery in the silence that things fall into place. My house has just sold after deciding to be ethical with a former partner, and this cozy one bedroom bungalow has presented itself to me with no mortgage so I can be freer and more committed to the community where I will be living. It is when we surrender to the silence, that life opens up or brings us home where we need to be in order to witness to the mystery in the world… marcia
Dearest Cynthia: Thank you so much for sharing news of your move to a geographic stabilitas. And the picture…I appreciate anchoring my thoughts and prayers of you with the mental image of your sweet looking place. The on-going discovery of your books by non-churched people and ensuing exciting conversations just keeps happening.
With gratitude I wish you continued discernment and courage for the coming year.
With an open heart,
I cannot tell you how much your Wisdom teaching has meant to me ~ come as it has at such a trough in my own life. I have also come to learn the importance and so long for that “stabilitas.” So God bless you and your new home Cynthia ! 🙂