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.