This is one of my favorite passages from Lax’s “Patmos Diary”. It is St. Thomas day (October 6, 1969 – the year after Merton’s death) and Lax is telling of the happenings on the island (a woman had missed the boat and was crying) when he runs into his old friend “siderako”, an 88 year old farmer who is going to the small church (St. Thomas) on the other side of the bay to celebrate St. Thomas Day (would Merton be there?) Lax has a hard time keeping up with him as they walk along …
sometimes a scene, like the (sea-scape) from the road, is more alive and speaks more clearly than the imagination.
it speaks of amazing order and purpose.
islands set out with care & grace (as though for a tea ceremony).
rocks scattered helter-skelter on the hillside, as though after an explosion, as though after an apocalypse: yet each one “perfect” in its place.
a road that leads and bends, bends and runs straight in “just the right places.”
(in just the right places.)
on days when nothing seems right in the world, the island landscape does. patmos does for patmos (& kalymonos for itself).
but patmos rocks are magical, mystical, holy.
the only ones like them I’ve ever seen, and they are only related in spirit, are those around avila.
they are rocks that stand and speak like elders.
some that rise from the sea are clenched like fists.
the rocks look like a person who has “suffered” a great revelation
like a prophet
after the spirit
has set him
even the brambles that grow from them, seem to be part, an essential part, of their visage
when I am alone on the road with the rocks, the whole world falls away, and I am alone & “contained” in a familiar place.
the color of the rocks is the color of fire (the color of pomegranates)
if a rock by the roadside is shaped for sitting, it is well-shaped for sitting (& well-placed, too, for meditation)
the rocks at patmos are vertical rocks; and the hill at patmos rises high
the holiness of patmos is priestly, prophetic, ecclesiastical holiness
the “holiness” of kalymnos is the holiness of life, of a city that is willing to live and willing to die: of one that praises its creator much as a fire does (by consuming itself in flame).
-Robert Lax, "Love Had A Compass", from the Patmos Diary, pp. 232, 233