An essay of mine bringing together my interest in the Benedictine monastic tradition with my concerns about the pervasive (and pernicious) influence of Big Tech has just been published in The Windhover.
In the essay, I bring to bear on our screen-saturated consciousnesses two key, foundational insights of the western monastic tradition: the daily practice of calling to mind one’s own death (Rule of St. Benedict 4.47) and the call to treat all things like “the vessels of the altar” (Rule of St. Benedict 31:10).
In light of these and other teachings of the monastic tradition, I suggest that “If we were to tend to our own attention with care and concern, we might individually and collectively find ourselves again, find the stable parts of who we are, and begin to build something new with the technological advances that we have surrounded ourselves with . . .” Doing so would bring us into accord with Benedict’s prescription to “let peace be your quest and aim” (Rule of St. Benedict Prologue.17).
The Windhover doesn’t make its contents fully available online, so if you have an interest, please do help support a literary journal open to a variety of Christian perspectives and that publishes solid poems, fiction, and essays by buying a copy here.
redwings and frogs in the rushes
porcupine lumbers clumsy
a nameless karst swale
into his whitecedar root home
silence all around
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!
special thanks to the ridges sanctuary, inc. for protecting this site for almost a century!
photo credit on amanita above and porcupine: mamie riyeff again
watercress succumbs to the current
where crayfish come to die
blueflag holds even glaciers
can’t change everything
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.
photo credit on amanita: mamie riyeff!
I just finished co-leading a retreat on bringing insights from the Upanishads to bear on Christian contemplation with Fr. Cyprian Consiglio “at” New Camaldoli Hermitage. Our first attempt at a Zoom retreat–a few tech snags, but such a delightful and invigorating experience.
Thanks to Fr. Cyprian, the Hermitage and its staff, and everyone who participated–I appreciate your time and sharing with all of us in ways I can’t say. Stay in touch and press on!
sedge sings out in tussocky throbs
to lonely kettle’s close
skunk cabbage now green parasols
riveredge creek slinks on
rivulets run like a web
while silent iris strains
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.
we’ll see if more press themselves on me…
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.
St. Petroc, pray for justice and peace!
we spook a blue heron
treading up prentice creek
stone streaming to pebble
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’s horns
in spring rain
(Baraboo River, just southeast of Man Mound.)
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.
wild turkey up the gorge
forget-me-nots support the sky
the mind saturated by oak
springs seep from the bluff-face
over eastsoil baking in sun
rivulets and restless children
Donges Bay Gorge Natural Area is a small upland forest and upland lake bluff with a steep ravine running thru. Thanks to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust for keeping this land.
My new essay in Commonweal is a meditation on the overlapping sanctity of place embodied by both the Late Woodland effigy mounds found throughout Wisconsin and the Catholic tradition of shrines set in natural areas.
The essay is set at Man Mound, a county park tended by the Sauk County Historical Society (which watches over a couple other sacred sites in the area). Man Mound is the only remaining anthropomorphic earthwork in North America, and the Sauk County Historical Society got the mound recognized as a National Landmark in 2016 to protect its future. It’s a drastically underappreciated part of the indigenous contribution to North America’s cultural history, and well worth a stop if you’re ever in the area.
If you’d like to help the Society protect Man Mound and improve the grounds, you can donate to the Man Mound Project here.
Essential to the rumination in the essay, too, is Durward’s Glen, a small property in the same area as Man Mound, called the Baraboo Hills. The Glen was turned into a homestead and artist’s colony by Milwaukee poet and painter Bernard Isaac Durward, whose poems I’m currently editing, and I’ve enjoyed time at the Glen since I was a young child visiting my grandparents up in Baraboo. I can’t recommend a walk or a sit at Durward’s Glen enough. You can arrange a visit to the Glen here.
Thanks to Commonweal for helping me share these treasures at the meeting point of nature and culture.
*Photo of Man Mound by Ethan Brodsky, courtesy of Sauk County Historical Society.