The novitiate year is a focused time of reflection, learning, study, prayer and work. This part of the formation process is structured to enable the novice to discern whether or not God is calling her to monastic life – here, in this monastery, at this time. Removed for this year from my usual daily routine of working a job out in the world, I am able to carve out the time to look deeply – inside, as well as around me. Part of my new “routine” includes sitting quietly for several hours each morning in front of the large windows upstairs in the residence hall. This picture and the poem that follows came out of that time:
Because it’s August in eastern
Kentucky, my view from second
story windows appears like one
vast expanse of green. Seemingly
unbroken lines of perfect trees
process down the ridges to the
invisible road far below.
Looking more closely, however,
I note the lone, dead, skeletal
branch beckoning courageously
heavenward from an otherwise
healthy tree. A hickory, I think,
but that doesn’t matter. What does,
is that by some hidden strength the
tree itself has not merely escaped
death but flourished. In idle
curiosity, I gaze and
wonder what happened. Maybe a
violent storm? An attack of blight?
Ravaging by insects? Perhaps –
when this tree was younger, in the
long ago competition for
light and air down close to the ground,
this branch was overcome by a
stronger tree growing beside it?
But why, why do I spend so much
time on what doesn’t matter? For
I know that anything that lives
long enough will face some storm,
some unexpected brokenness. What
matters is that still, still, the core
slowly recovers and golden
shafts of morning sun stream every
day across a brilliant blue sky.
We are scarred.
But we are healed.