|Photo by Thomas Merton|
"In 1965, a few months before Merton began living as a full-time hermit, he wrote a descriptive essay, “Day of a Stranger,” about what he had so far experienced in his several years of being a part-time hermit. In it he speaks in rapturous terms of what he has been learning day-by-day in the woods of Gethsemani:
One might say I had decided to marry the silence of the forest.
The sweet dark warmth of the whole world will have to be my wife.
Out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence,
but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered
by all the lovers in their beds
all over the world.
So perhaps I have an obligation
to preserve the stillness,
the virginal point of pure nothingness
which is at the center of all other loves.
I attempt to cultivate this plant
in the middle of the night
and water it with psalms and prophecies
It becomes the most rare
of all the trees in the garden,
at once the primordial paradise tree,
the AXIS MUNDI,
the cosmic axle,
and the Cross ...
There is only one such tree.
It cannot be multiplied.
- Thomas Merton, essay, "Day of the Stranger", 1965
- Jim Forest, "Thomas Merton: One Foot in the Wilderness, One Foot in the World."