Here is my reading (with a small cameo from my daughter) of Dame Gertrude More’s (1606-33) poem to her master in the monastic life, St. Benedict.
Dame Gertrude was a Benedictine nun in exile on the continent and a great contemplative of the early modern period when the English Catholic Church persevered thru persecution. You can pick up a copy of her poems and shorter prose here if you like.
On this big feast for Benedictine and Cistercian monastics and their oblates and associates, I thought I’d post some new audio of Benedictine poetry I’ve translated or edited over the last few years.
Today’s first installment: a short poem from Swami Abhishiktananda (aka Dom Henri Le Saux, OSB; 1910-1973). “OM Wholly Burnt” is a dense little poem with lots of pathos included in a letter to Swamiji’s disciple, Swami Ajatananda (Marc Chaduc) written toward the end of his life.
the ridges sanctuary was the first land trust set up in wisconsin, in 1937. among other features, the main point of interest is the series of ridges and swales that resulted from the lowering of lake michigan’s shoreline. due to its ancient history, its southward facing, and its proximity to lake michigan, the ridges contain largely boreal forests similar to those found far northwest in wisconsin, while the swales mostly contain marsh and bog flora. they are a sight to behold. this unique ecosystem makes the site one with a high ratio of rare plants in the midwest. –oh, and we saw a porcupine!
toft point state natural area is a 732-acre piece of land in door county, wi tucked between two bays. with boreal forest, mesic forest, and sedge meadow and swampland, it boasts one of the most diverse bryophyte communities in the state. it was a distinctly different feeling walking thru these woods.
thanks to uw-green bay and the wi nature conservancy for maintaining this patch of earth.
heins creek nature preserve is located on an isthmus in bailey’s harbor, door county, wi. the creek flows from kangaroo lake (a former bay) to lake michigan, keeping the lakes connected despite centuries of land incursion.
northern blue flag was in arresting bloom when we visited, and the mosquitoes plentiful. thanks to the door county land trust for preserving this unique spot.
riveredge creek and ephemeral pond state natural area is part of the riveredge nature center, a 61-acre slice of land that includes fen-like habitat with lots of skunk cabbage and spotted cranesbill (wild geranium).
thanks to the riveredge nature center for protecting and rehabilitating this area.
a programming note for myself and anyone who might care: as the final lines of both these poems allude to, i think the timeline of this project has closed. it was originally conceived as a way to get out of the house in safety either alone or with my family when the pandemic first really hit and we were all sheltering in place hard. but with the return of the warm weather and the first serious pushes of reopening, it feels like this project has done its work. i may continue to add more here and there when i get out, but i’m retiring the series as a reason/impetus to go out in the first place. i know several folks have been reading lots of these, and i appreciate your time and care. thanks for reading.
In the midst of all our troubles in the States and around the world at the moment, this may seem frivolous, but the liturgical year presses on with the vicissitudes of history. Today is the feast of St. Petroc, a relatively obscure sixth-century saint of Cornwall. (Not on the universal calendar, but his feast is still in the current Martyrologium Romanum.)
I did work on St. Petroc at UW-Madison under the wonderful medievalist Dr. Sherry Reames and ended up writing my first long poem on his life. It’s basically a verse adaptation of his Latin prose life, and you can see it here if you’re in need of a momentary retreat/diversion.
Durward’s Glen is a gorge of sandstone and conglomerate in Caledonia, Columbia County, Wisconsin, thru which runs Prentice Creek. Bernard Isaac Durward, a Milwaukee painter and poet, purchased the Glen in the mid-nineteenth century, and it has been a center for retreat and natural beauty since.
The day I visited, there was a steady rain all day long and Prentice Creek was swollen. It is one of my favorite places on earth.
Man Mound is the last remaining anthropomorphic effigy mound in North America, located in Sauk County near the Lower Narrows of the Baraboo Range. It is one of my favorite places on the earth. If you missed it, I have a new, brief essay set at Man Mound in Commonweal.
I visited yesterday in the cool spring rain. It was glorious.
Thanks to the Sauk County Historical Society for keeping this place. You can support their upkeep here.