sna poems, series supplementum #34: new camaldoli fence loop trail

new camaldoli hermitage, founded in 1959 by camaldolese monks based in italy, sits on a mountain in the santa lucia range overlooking the pacific ocean in big sur, california. it is a vibrant contemplative community of monks with daughter houses in berkeley and san luis obispo.

i have a particular affection for the camaldolese since my spiritual mother‘s teacher was bede griffiths, an english benedictine monk who ended up as superior at saccidananda ashram in tamil nadu, india, which ended up incorporated into the camaldolese order. plus, i’m very keen on the works of one of new camaldoli’s original monks, fr. bruno barnhart, and of the current prior, cyprian consiglio. the hermitage is well worth checking out if you’re in the area or looking for a spectacular place for a retreat.

the fence loop trail winds up beyond the hermitage, and we hadn’t climbed it before our visit a couple weeks ago. a beautiful walk with views of canyon and mountain and ocean and sky. redwoods and granitic rock.

first id of vetchling.

a.

carboniferous

but standing:

a scorched redwood grove

b.

purple pincushions

underfoot—

all god’s creatures hum

c.

clouds rolling below

limbs weary

but the soul refreshed

sna poems, series supplementum # 34: garrapata state park

beside hwy 1 in california, just as one descends on big sur from the north, lies garrapata state park and its bluff trail. we went up and down the mazey path along the bluff, enjoying the persuasive breeze and bare sun on the bluffside. and the flowers! clinging to the rock and sand for dear life all around.

in addition, one of the strangest sights i’ve ever come across: on the initial passage out to the bluff side, one comes upon a cove, and as i walked out to the overlook on a dusty path to spy the cove in more detail a massive corpse met my eyes, a whale deceased in the surf, gently tossing. i hesitated to take pictures, but didn’t want to hide the encounter and fall prey to the temptation to romanticize the natural world. it was a pity to see, but the vultures were already getting ready to eat for days, and many other creatures were surely going to be fed for longer. so it’s here, as the last set of pictures at the bottom; don’t scroll all the way down if you’d rather not see, please.

on brighter notes, first id’s of clawberry, sticky monkey flower, scarlet pimpernel, woolly sunflower (“seaside” methinks), and false bindweed (calystegia).

a.

clawberry fingers,

ocean breeze:

spiked fields to the sky

b.

woolly sunflowers

look and see

oiled mammal barges

c.

over ropey roots

false bindweed

curls in the seabreeze

d.

rock in your cove crypt,

deep cut wales

exposed to air and light

Thank you to New Camaldoli and Retreatants + New Audio of Swamiji Poem

My wife and I just returned from the Big Sur coast where I led a retreat at New Camaldoli Hermitage with Fr. Cyprian Consiglio on Swami Abhishiktananda‘s life and wonderful legacy. The weekend was filled with deep conversation and joy in the Spirit.

The Hermitage offers nourishment for soul and body, with a tremendous view of the Pacific (and attendant cloudscapes) from its mountain perch. The liturgy, meditation, and  space for silence and presence of mind and spirit were all exactly what my wife and I needed after a busy school year and the recent publishing push and . . . everything!

My sincerest thanks to the Camaldolese monks at New Camaldoli, and especially to all the retreatants who came along for the ride–I hope our paths cross again soon!

In continued celebration of Swamiji’s work, here is a translation of a poem from Swami Abhishiktananda’s journal that is in my collection; I read this at the retreat during a session on Swamiji’s use of poetry to gesture at his profound advaitic and mystical experiences.

“You have seen the lightning” addresses its own author and all those who have glimpsed the root unity of things beyond appearance, with a kind of fatherly caution. It speaks to the intimacy of such experience and the inadequacy of words in its face–and yet our desire to speak or sing of it despite this. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Retreat on Swami Abhishiktananda at New Camaldoli Hermitage This Summer

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be co-leading a retreat this summer in lovely Big Sur, CA at New Camaldoli Hermitage. Along with Fr. Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam. I’ll be sharing a weekend of poetry, music, cinema, liturgy, prayer, and meditation with any and all who wish to join us. Good times will abound, the Spirit willing!

The description of the retreat is below, and you can see the Camaldolese monks’ site here and register for the retreat by following the directions here. I’m very much looking forward to spending the weekend with the monastic and oblate communities at the Hermitage.

And a quick note to thank the monks and oblates of The Monastery of the Ascension in Jerome, ID for hosting me late last year for a retreat on the deep Benedictine contemplative tradition!

Description:

“Wake Up! The Legacy of Swami Abhishiktananda in Poetry, Song and Film”

Swami Abhishiktananda (Fr. Henri Le Saux) was a Benedictine monk who spent much of his life in India immersed in the contemplative traditions of Christianity and Hinduism. By the time of his death in 1973, Swamiji had become a prophet of interreligious dialogue, an accomplished spiritual writer, and one of the twentieth century’s great mystics. Swamiji sought and desired to lead others to the realization of Absolute Reality, drawing together Christian teaching on the Trinity and Hindu teaching on non-duality (advaita).

Though he, like so many of the great mystics, called seekers to go “Beyond!” (beyond concepts, beyond words, beyond images), he also understood the necessity of words and signs in our everyday reality. In that spirit, New Camaldoli Hermitage is excited to offer a retreat focused on Swamiji’s life and teaching. While we will make space for the silence Swamiji loved so well, we will also celebrate his life and teaching in various arts: New Camaldoli’s own Prior Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam will lead us in chant and song, Benedictine oblate and poet Jacob Riyeff will give a reading of Swamiji’s newly-translated poetry, and we will view the new documentary of Swamiji’s life, *Dawn of the Abyss: The Spiritual Birth of Swamiji*.

In addition to these multimedia sessions, traditional conferences on Swamiji’s teaching will offer a more detailed encounter with his profound insights into the contemplative life. Please join us for this joyous event!