From root to crown
the oak tree gives You glory,
in sap and leaf
where squirrels play
and the bluejay squawks his morning joy.
Light becomes food,
water and sugar into sap
autumn harvest for
crow, squirrel, human,
and a gift to the earth
that may sprout a seedling in the spring.
A pair of doves build a nest here,
make love, make eggs,
fledglings test their wings,
and seedlings grow
in the shade of their mother.
looking out her window at dawn –
what do we have in common?
When the body becomes Your mirror,
leaves drink light,
and I make it into a song of praise.
(Title from a poem by Mahadeviyakka)
Written December 29, 2015 at New Camaldoli Hermitage
It would be foolish to think that my humble Papermate pencil and I could offer up praise sufficient for the gifts of this morning. The waning gibbous moon was sailing into the west when I left my room, while in the east Venus glowed in the rose-rimmed azure sky that had already yielded her stars to the approaching dawn. In the chapel white-robed monks chanted ancient psalms by candlelight and sang of the old prophecy: “For us a child is born.” In the sanctuary bread was broken; together we ate, men and women, monastics vowed to this place and guests visiting from the world, together we drank from the common cup.
“Open your hearts to God’s tenderness,” the presider encouraged us in his thick Italian accent, he who dreamt during the night that an angel told him, “Keep it simple, Angelo. The more you speak, the less people hear.”
Let the garden outside my window speak, the bluejays and the little brown rabbit who come to breakfast here, the early narcissus blooming in the corner. The book of nature falls open to this spot on a mountain by the sea. Here in the day’s first rays of light is the praise sufficient to the gifts of this morning.
Title from a poem by 16th-century Italian poet Vittoria Colonna.