Tuesday, July 8, 2014

one may write or not write

"Heavenliness - again. For instance, walking up into the woods yesterday afternoon - as if my feet acquired a heavenly lightness from contact with the earth of the path. As though the earth itself were filled with an indescribable spirituality and lightness, as if the true nature of the earth were to be heavenly, or rather as if all things, in truth, had a heavenly existence. As if existence itself were heavenliness."

- Thomas Merton, from A Year With Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals

"You flowers and trees, you hills and streams, you fields, flocks and wild birds, you books, you poems, and you people, I am unutterably alone in the midst of you."

- Thomas Merton

So, for the last couple of afternoons, I've been taking the Merton book out into the backyard. I began reading his July entries. He talks about the heat, a cool breeze, a meadowlark, a butterfly. He talks about being solitary, about being quiet. About his deeper calling. And all in such soothing cadences.

When I say I've been reading Merton, I always have this urge to confess that I'm not at all religious, at least not in any proper sense. But when Merton says something like, "The great work of sunrise today. The awful solemnity of it. The sacredness." I'm right there beside him.

One of the entries that I keep going back to is for July 1. And I know I've quoted from it before, but it speaks to me and I need it this morning and plan on referring back to it all summer.

"It is necessary to write a book in which there will be a little less of the first person singular, a little less dramatizing, and fewer resolutions.

Or rather, it is not necessary to write a book. Or anything else.
One is free to keep a notebook. That is sufficient.
One may write or not write. Therefore one may write."

"And I have always wanted to write about everything.
That does not mean to write a book that covers everything - which would be impossible. But a book into which everything can go. A book with a little of everything that creates itself out of everything. That has its own life. A faithful book. I no longer look at it as a "book."

- Thomas Merton

One of the gifts of not being one of the cool or popular or sought after writers, is that it allows you to become utterly faithful to the book. To write for the sake of the writing without thoughts for the so-called market, without tormenting oneself about the delicate state of the publishing industry.

The great truth of writing: one may write or not write. Therefore one may write.


  1. i have always loved merton.
    and to see him quoted here... with your perfect pictures of light and book.
    just lovely.

  2. I love this post. It's made my day, thanks Shawna.


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