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August 16, 2018

October 18, 2018

Looking out my window at the marvel of Weir cove as it pumps twenty-nine feet of tidal water in and out twice a day and runs on moon power. All this amazing power is sourced through Cobscook bay from the Bay of Fundy. Watching this tidal movement driven by the moon occupies the corner of my eye from first light of day to sunset. The tug of the moon is a stunning power in all our lives. The moon’s biological pull on our bodies regulates a number of cyclic shifts as well as intensifying hormonal activity. I would suggest that we are talking about real power. Not the power of politics or even broken cardinals. The power of Weir cove is the mighty power of our God in a display of it’s steady wonder. May this wonder of wonders move our hearts.

October 11, 2018

Outside my window, near the garden fence, an unfamiliar bird screams an announcement of his presence. The birds fly into the large window, falling unconscious to the ground for a moment. The windows act as a mirror in the sunlight blinding the birds. I remember this happening years ago when I lived on Cape Cod and again when I lived on the side of the hill in Malibu. I can well imagine the assault on the tall glass buildings in the city. At least half of the birds who hit the windows die from their injuries. The sickening sound of a bird hitting the glass is a sound you will never forget. Living on a farm at the top of a hill presents unanticipated unfortunate events. Life is full of unanticipated circumstances both here in a forest clearing as well as in the city.

October 4, 2018

On this memorial of St. Francis, we examine his injunction : “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”The experience of not pardoning someone is rooted in our resentment in our failed expectations of others. We set high expectations for others and resent them for not reaching our expectations. This attitude is at the root of our not being able to pardon someone. However, St. Francis says that our willingness to pardon others sets the standard for our being pardoned ourselves. The other side of the coin is regrets. Regrets are our failed expectations of ourselves. Somehow we demand very high expectations for ourselves and thus set ourselves up for grief. The sum expectation of being pardoned is based on our willingness to pardon others..

September 27, 2018

Who is looking between the fir trees to catch the half dressed deciduous trees? It is I straining to take in the unexpected colors of Fall. 
Perhaps my hay barn is so full it is spilling out like the scarecrow in the land of Oz. The forest and Hermitage gardens are exposed to the early frost. 
September 21st. was the date of my first log fire in the morning with temperatures below 33 degrees. However, Autumn is not to be dismissed. 
When I lived in California, my cousin sent me a big box of colored leaves with a note that read: ”Open wide and put your head in.” 
With my head in the box, I am thrilled by the Autumn fashion.

September 20, 2018

“The Immense Journey” by Dr. Loren Eiseley, is one of those books you take up over and over through life and always find fresh insights. One particular statement by the author has resonated in my life. “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” This should come as no surprise since nine tenths of all life here comes from water. What may be the surprise is that magic is contained in the water. Most of us have experienced magic, but are slow to realize it’s profound presence in our lives. But to fully capture it is like trying to hold a jellyfish. This stealth power, is all around us. Put your hands in water and feel the magic.

September 13, 2018

With three hundred and fifty large bales of fresh cut hay sitting in the barnyard, Lilly and Rosie the Hermitage goats, thought the hay had fallen from heaven. They immediately jumped into the huge pile and started to eat and eat the sweet hay. I never saw them so excited. I only wished hay was my preference. The Hermitage Saint Bernard, Hank, proceeded to carve out a secret cave from the hay. Once done, he took a nap in his special shelter. The powerful smell of the sweet hay filled the barn as if it had blown through the fields and snuggled up in the rafters. I felt we were in an Andrew Wyeth painting. The thrill of fresh cut hay cracked my cosmic shell open to the basic reality surrounding me. Proust was on target regarding the enormous power of smell.

August 30, 2018

On the feast of the nativity of the Virgin Mary, September 8th. In gratitude to God for my twenty-nine years ordained to the priesthood, and nine years of the Hermitage ministry, please accept this gift of a novena of masses to be celebrated for your intentions. My heart reaches out to you for your many years of friendship.

August 16 - 30, 2018

Often called “Blue mountain tea”, Goldenrod is a member of the aster family. As can readily be seen by the picture, it is most easily confused with Ragweed. In fact, Goldenrod is an antidote for seasonal ragweed allergies. It has been said that Goldenrod is higher in antioxidants than green tea. The almost universal confusion between these two plants, one highly valued and the other a plague of allergies, suggests that a knowledgeable recognition of each can be daunting. I have observed that discerning the truth in some situations resists certitude. Perhaps keeping an open mind within a cone of tolerance will lead to the insight.

August 9, 2018

Edith Stein was a German philosopher in the first half of the twentieth century. She lectured extensively on Women's issues. This was a time when one heard little of such things. Edith was refused a professorship because she was a woman. After the law against women Professors was lifted, she was refused a professorship because she was a Jew. By the 1930’s she converted to Roman Catholicism, then became a cloistered Carmelite nun but had to secretly escape from a German convent to a convent in the Netherlands. However, the Nazis found her and sent her to Auschwitz to the ovens. Today she is a canonized saint by the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Her feast is August 9th.

July 26 - August 8, 2018

This is the high point of summer in Maine. The roads are packed with obscene personal buses each with a car attached to the back. These folks are on vacation and they are taking everything they own. They remind me of a snail carrying their condo on their back. By the third week of August, the weather will be getting cool at night and the smell of autumn will be in the air. “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” Albert Camus. For now, the goats lie in the barnyard, full prostrate in the hot July sun. They are both female along with the Icelandic horse, Zoey, who also loves to stretch out, full body, in the pasture sun. All of us males choose to sit under the shade of the big fir trees. This Hermitage idyll conjures serene meditation.

July 12, 2018

Brilliant yellow Zucchini  flowers parade along the garden path in a display of arrogant expansionism.  The fruit of the squash will be cooked with Hermitage tomatoes and fresh basil. The sauce will be frozen for next February’s magic. When the yellow tomatoes bloom, a less acidic sauce will welcome long neck summer squash for frozen pizza sauce sans heartburn. Long range preparation like this requires you keep watch and aggressively weed daily. This stability (being there) and discipline ( force yourself to focus) leaves little room for tangent issues. 

I have observed that stability and focus in all endeavors clears my mind and are the building blocks of success.

June 28, 2018

Zoey looks exotic in her new white veil. Megan’s hat designer should take note of this Icelandic horse's glamorous pose. The veil is designed to keep the flies out of her eyes. The look is striking indeed. The veil is so thin she can still locate and nibble the tiny new grass shoots. At four P.M. I take her veil off and give her three “starbrite” mints. Then we go to the barn and she has oat and molasses cakes which I baked for her. It is a cozy relationship. My Vet says that horses just eat and walk forward. Obviously he can not see with my eyes. Perhaps to see the world with the eyes of others leads to enlightenment.

June 21, 2018

So I am back to digging again. I said I was too old and could not do it. It needs to be eight feet long and two and a half feet deep. It is for a grounding rod to make the electric pasture fence work.The horses never go near the fence anymore but I don’t want to test their will. Thus the return once again to digging. As I approached the task, my mind said no, you will have a heart attack, it will be too difficult with all the rocks in Maine. My mind did enough protesting that I could have had half the work done. So I shut off my mind and opened my heart to being close to the earth and in the fresh spring/summer air. It was done in three days of an hours morning work. My mind tells me numerous things all day, some invaluable and some purely survival fears. I take only what is valuable and get on with the task of life at hand

June 14, 2018

The entire Hermitage gardens were planted by June 8th. What a relief from exhaustion to have these three hundred plants in the ground and growing. My soul is constantly renewed tending to the care and weeding of these new born plants. The plants are blooming with flowers. The magic fruit comes latter. The local grocery store just put in self-checkout stations in the front. No one dared to try to use them and they sat empty till the tourist started to come this spring. And they were not afraid of them. Obviously, a few hundred miles south produces a more sophisticated buyer. Meanwhile I sit and watch the Robins devour worms.

June 7, 2018

June first is the last possible frost date in Maine. So says the National weather service. Last night, June 4th we had a deep frost. It seems the local Maine folks know how fickle the weather is here and are slow to plant. The plants in the ground survived the frost but I will wait another few days to continue planting. Maine is full of compulsive temperature takers. The temperatures are so extreme one needs to keep a sharp eye on the weather. Living dependent on the land is a dramatic adventure. We all live on some piece of land. Perhaps we should get to know it and honor God’s creation.

May 31, 2018

Swept up in the astonishment of spring, I am surrounded with eager plants, agreeable weather, and a wellspring of new life. I planted this “Granny Smith” apple tree three years ago. I hesitated because I did not think it would bloom for many years, given the frigid winters here in Maine. Yet, here it is, full of blooms, and only a baby tree. If we can re-imagine the impossible as possible, our life will bloom as though it is “apple blossom time”

May 24, 2018

Suspended in mid air outside the door of the barn, a ruby hummingbird beckoned. It was time to fill their feeder. Fresh back from their winter resort they were hungry and hummingbirds are not shy and insist you attend to their needs immediately. There is a blue and a purple nine year old lilac bush embracing the entrance to the Hermitage. Two Hummingbird feeders hang within the lilac bushes now. With the lilacs in bloom, a festival of smell and taste follows. I have anticipated the blooming of the lilacs for a full year. It is the horticultural high point of my year. Perhaps a similar occurrence in nature unfolds on a sure and dependable time line in your life. These are the precious realizations that keep the rudder of our ship on course

May 17, 2018

Crowd Gathers for Opening Day of the Electric Car Line in Santa Monica, April 1, 1896

The new reality of seeing trains on Colorado Blvd. in Santa Monica made a friend of mine uneasy with the rapid passing of time. Her little beach town has become a small city. Perhaps new discoveries invite us to see with new eyes the reality before us. Adjusting to the many changes constantly in flux can be a positive endeavor. I have been astonished how everything here at the Hermitage, the nature that surrounds us, the various farm machines and buildings, are in a state of constant change and decay. The Zen masters tell us that everything is always in change. The way to bring that change into focus is indeed, to see with new eyes.

May 10, 2018

After a harsh Maine winter, the blooming of the Forsythia holds an anticipated burst of yellow Spring. Anne Morrow Lindbergh's observation is clearly the best observation of Forsythia in bloom that I have read. “Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in Forsythia, pure undiluted joy.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I have been watching the Forsythia branches for a month as they developed faint buds in the cold and rain of April. May brings the long awaited flowers, at last. Between green and orange, yellow makes itself known ; egg yolks and lemons, against a red barn and with bushes filled with bird nests. Spring !

May 3, 2018

She has her nose in everyone’s business. However, she is not “nosy” in the common sense of the word. Rather, she clearly wants to be included, appreciated, and always noticed. She will not take “no” for an answer and uses her weight to block you if you try to ignore her. She is over one hundred and fifty pounds and is a formidable force demanding reciprocal love and adoration. Her agitated tail looks like a brilliant white boa May West might sport. She is not old, but like many of us she is not young. I would say she is in her prime. I recognize her place in the scheme of my life; a devoted companion and a prophetic voice. The very best point is that she never talks except silently to my heart.

April 26, 2018

I saw my first grasshopper yesterday in the new lush green grass. The grasshopper reminds me of my youthful romps in sunny fields of tall yellow grass. I would sit and thrill when they jumped on my body. This remarkable insect has the ability to easily jump over obstacles and move forward without fear or hesitation, leaving behind what is behind. The liberty of the grasshopper inspires me to advance with eyes forward in faith. We can imitate the grasshopper in leaving behind what is behind. I am reminded of a quote from Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.”

April 19, 2018

The Turkeys are back from their winter holiday. I saw a solitary male lead scout coming up the pasture, heading to the side of the Hermitage where whole corn kernels are put out each day. The male remembered the place from last year. Soon a giant, pregnant girl Turkey followed his lead. By Summer, the new baby chicks will form a single line and follow the others to the corn kernels. The males form watchtowers to protect the moving flock. I have observed that the world of the Turkey is an orderly, predictable, family adventure. In contrast, our world is neither orderly, predictable, and less and less a family adventure. For us, life is too fast for our own good. The iridescent Turkey is beauty in motion. Granted the colors are most intense at a walking pace or waddling. Perhaps if we move slowly we will look iridescent to those around us.

April 12, 2018

“April is the cruelest month” (T.S.Elliot). The twelfth finds the land heaving under snow, the buds are on the verge of bursting forth, and the great Maine mud “break-up” is in progress. I saw my first Robin this morning, a surprisingly plump red breasted returning friend. The puddles on the dirt road are capped with ice each morning. The ice melts each day at noon. Suspended between late winter and early spring, I find comfort from my tension in the horses enthusiasm. Their hefty roll in the pasture’s mud lifts their spirits after four months in the barn. Perhaps we all need a good roll in the mud to remind us we also are free.

April 5, 2018

What a grandiose time is April. It is the month when new mint leaves adorn the forest landscape bringing new life and hope. I am ready for spring this year! With new smells and agitated tails, the dogs will lead as we take long walks on the hidden road to the promontory high above the tidal cove. The dogs will be drawn down to the water’s edge and I shall be content to sit and appreciate how everything looks different and at the same time looks the same. As time goes by, we all notice the change in seasons, change in the circumstances of our lives, and the change in our understanding. Spring is one of those transitional times we recognize with wonder in our lives. Passover and Easter mark the spot where the “same” is different.

Easter, 2018

“Like a deer that longs for running springs… My soul longs for you, my God” (Psalm 42 Easter Vigil ) 

May your thirst for Health and Justice be quenched with The Blessings of Easter 

I will remember you and your family, Here at the Hermitage. 

Christ truly has Risen! Fr. Doug

March 22, 2018

With all the blizzards we keep having this March, isolation on the Hermitage farm begs the question: is isolation only geographical or can isolation be a psychological experience. Isolation on the Hermitage farm leaves room for horses, goats, and St. Bernards. This is a family of living beings interacting in their own way. When I enter the barn, the goats jump down from the hayloft and looking up with their glistening brown eyes anticipate afternoon candy. The horses winnie a greeting and welcome all the attention they can get. The dogs smell the excitement in the air and race between each stall. On the other hand, psychological isolation leaves one suspended and alone or worse ignored in “the lonely crowd”. Most folks you encounter in the mall remain anonymous. Perhaps Nora Roberts sums it up best: “ If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place”.

March 15, 2018

With flying feathered legs, her footprints in the deep snow are stretched like the tail of a comet. Georgia runs along a journey that lingers in her mind from the last snow storm. Her priority is to scatter her scent containing personal information. And to have fun ! Our current method for spreading our scent containing personal information is “Facebook”. In fact, the entire social media is an electronic means for this endeavor. At this time in life, I try not to scatter my scent, and personal information is just that, personal. However, Georgia’s effusiveness over the past four years has inspired me to respond more openly with my full self. And to have fun.

March 8, 2018

What to do with fussy eaters? These girls are true browsers, one day loving something and the
next not interested at all. What exactly makes goats happy?
Many folks think goats eat everything. Not so . They adore strawberries but will not eat them if
there are any green leaves attached to the top.
I have found one food that makes them excited and happy “Wasa Multigrain crackers” make
Rosie and Lily, the Hermitage goats, smile ! Yes, these goats do smile.
For us “Wasa” may not be the key to our happiness. Many folks are still browsing. I once asked an old monk what he had learned after forty years in the monastery. He told me; “It is not hard to be happy, but it is very hard to know what will make you happy”.

March 1, 2018

The full worm moon is March 1st this year. The earth begins to soften and earthworms reappear inviting the return of the robins. This may be true a few hundred miles south of the Hermitage, but we shall need to wait a few more weeks. Even though it has been an unusual Winter with little snow, lots of cold and unfortunately roads thick with ice, it is the ice that has frozen me in for weeks. Just the hint that the robins will be returning is a cause for great anticipation. Winter gets old by March but the leaves will not come out on the trees till late April. The hint of light at the end of the winter tunnel energizes my spirit and my head is full of things I want to accomplish. Perhaps the sight of the first robin will move me to action.

February 22, 2018

Some years, the coming of the season of Lent seems like another burden for some people. I realize as I write to people, that they have too much on their plate to find time to participate in the observances and devotions of Lent. Perhaps a one minute word will keep you in touch with the praying community. The word or phrase is an ancient form of an instant devotion used for centuries by both monks and busy people. This ancient prayer is a confession to God, a prayer for mercy, and a mantra which is always available.. “Lord have mercy on me a sinner.” An excellent Lenten devotion.

February 15, 2018

The ice extends a half mile in every direction. There are no tufts of grass to safely place your foot, nor spots of snow on which you might be safe for a moment. No it is smooth thick ice which invalidates any guarantee of the “new non-slip boot.” No one can come and no one can go. Even the Saint Bernard dogs can not manage this ice. For a few clear sunny February days, our world is frozen in time. It takes a land of ice to pause the world and only leave room to reflect on your situation. Each day the sun rises and then sets atop the glowing tips of the trees that line Weir Cove. I sit and watch in wonder. Does God stop time in a world of ice? Even the internet has been out. This is a stunning moment on pancake Tuesday as time is set aside.

February 8, 2018

In less than a week we will celebrate Ash Wednesday again. Yes, again ! Granted all the important dates come around each year, but the advent of Lent on Feb. 14th is something of a dreary shock in the dead of winter ice and cold. However, THIS Ash Wednesday is the one that truly matters because it lives in our present moment, a unique celebration whose results are not yet determined. By April first, many will wonder where Lent went. So we should capture it here at the beginning and follow it through. But what is the motivation? The Lenten fasts are to remind us to slow down, get control of our excesses, and return our hearts to our spiritual center.

February 1, 2018

As much as I sweet talk them, beg them, and whistle clear moves, the goats will not come to me. They do not respond to calls. You must get behind them with a staff or even a broom and coax them forward. One guides the flock with gentle coaxing. Psalm 95, today’s responsorial psalm, says God gently guides us like a flock. He has our back and protects us from wolfs. Yes, wolfs. Just check out “#MeToo “. The refrain for psalm 95 today is verse eight, “if today you hear his voice, harden not your heart”. But how do you hear his voice and act on it? How not to harden your heart? Rosie and Lily, the two Hermitage goats, are brilliant open spirits. They do not harden their hearts but respond to guidance as sure and steady direction.

January 25, 2018

This sudden blooming of a hundred spring bulbs huddled on a ledge in front of the snow filled landscape, demonstrates the vacillating nature of life. I am attentive to this movement of the life force in my midst. The deep blue hyacinths conceal their intense scent in unexpected corners of the room only to dazzle anyone who breaks the spell. You can not avoid smiling when you are surrounded by this stealthy presence. From times long forgotten in youth, I recognize this enchanting smell and like Proust, realize that my destination is no longer a place rather a new way of seeing.

January 18, 2018

Here in Maine, we are at the first week of the winter tunnel months. The period ends by the second week of March. (if we are lucky). Every day the sun gets longer by a few minutes. By the end of January you become aware of the longer day. Tunnel time is unique in its special passage to the Spring side. It is special in its prolonged powerful weather and it’s natural tendency to a contemplative mode of being. It is something like a six week retreat. I hope to discover a new direction and vision in these months. I have a deep urge to spend the time writing a book of meditations, as the Spirit leads me. Special time does not come often in our lives. Recognizing this time as an opportunity to be acted upon is a blessing.

January 11, 2018

The snow clad forest encases the Hermitage beyond the reach of humanity. The stillness and utter silence of the driving snow finds me quivering in the presence of a voice with no sound, a vision twisted by cataracts, an aloneness filled with swaying promises yet to be fulfilled, and staring wooden flowers, which throughout the span of human history signifies human enlightenment, and the third eye of wisdom looking down from hundreds of fir trees. 

Perhaps this experience in the woods was a tangent moment in time, a parallel universe, a snippet from the eye of God.

January 4, 2018

My heart jumped a beat with joy as I was washing dishes. Inches from the window in front of the kitchen sink, I stood eyeball to eyeball with a fun friend who had disappeared a year ago. Her name is Sandy, a charming Squirrel with a brilliant red tail. She runs across the top of the snow ridge outside the widow and looks in stares and at me. She plays in the leafless lilac bush waiting for the birds to spill more seeds on the ground. The vision of Sandy in the window made me laugh with joy. I keep a picture of her near the window. Now she is back! The unexpected appearance of someone special made me think of other wondrous encounters The day at the airport when I met my sister after several years was another surprising moment. I was dazzled at how much we look alike. I especially remember with fondness the sudden embrace of my Aunt Mary as I disembarked from a train in her hometown. ( she never hugged anyone , ever!). Look around for the unexpected appearance of someone who brings joy. It could be the crossing guard at Church or the produce person in the grocery store who invites you to taste a sample of a melon. These seemingly random encounters are in fact moments of brilliance designated by a smiling God

New Year, 2018

We begin 2018 in the dark as we watch for the return of more light. Most ancient religions mark
the shortest days of the year with a yearning for an early spring and more light.
The lectionary says that the first prayer for the mass on January 1st is from the ancient book of
the bible, “Numbers”. A better word than this Greek title would be the Hebrew designation
“bemidbar” “in the wilderness”, which narrates the departure from Sinai through the wilderness
that leads to the promised land. We begin the New Year with this blessing given to the people of
God as they start out on a bright new journey.
“May Yahweh bless you and keep you”
“May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be gracious to you”
“May Yahweh show you his face and bring you peace”
(Numbers 6: 24-26)

From the little Hermitage hidden deep in Maine’s snowbound forest at the seashore, we
surround you with heartfelt gratitude for your generosity to us. Blessings of health and “all good
things” this 2018.

Christmas, 2017

“The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.” Is 9:2 

“For to us a child is born” “Wonderful Counselor Mighty God Prince of Peace.” Is 9:6 

May the new Light shine on your path And bring you and your family blessings, health, and assurance

December 14, 2017

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, He has covered me with a robe of Justice.” With these words the third Sunday of Advent makes clear the imminent arrival of the Spirit in our hearts and in our lives this Christmas. This is not simply an idea or an expression or figure of speech; no, we are talking about the tangible, manifested reality of the power of God resting upon our life. All day, every day, in good times and in bad times; whether the stock market is up or down; or whether the grocery store has 39 cents a pound for bananas. “Covered with a robe of justice” we are called to conduct ourselves with fairness. Justice is what we seek and find in the third sunday of Advent.

December 7, 2017

With the second Sunday of Advent, we are promised a messenger, a witness, a prophet in our midst, whose purpose is to prepare the way of the Lord. This prophet is in our midst, wearing old clothes and living on locusts and wild honey. Is he a man in the street? Perhaps he is a cop or a teacher, or man on drugs. Can we break through our prejudices and expectations to see the prophet before us? It is an exciting time to know he is in our midst. It would be terrible to miss him because we would not see. Each day of Advent we see more and more excitement about the coming of one “whose sandal I am not worthy to untie”. After all these years, John still points the way.

November 30, 2017

Over the years, many prayers had been added to the Church's new year liturgy celebrated at the first Sunday of Advent. Over time, the Church fathers collected these various prayers into the “collect” for the first Mass of the new year: “Grant your faithful, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ” Collect for 1st Sunday of Advent. The Advent season is a “groaning” or “yearning” for the birth of Christ among us.

Thanksgiving, 2017

What a wonder is Lilly (the small goat in the picture) as she embraces the wild Hermitage turkeys in their common love for corn. Lilly is a tender girl and teaches me by her inclusiveness. With all the dark news at this time, this picture speaks a thousand words about tolerance and acceptance. I wish you blessings and health this marvelous Thanksgiving.

November 9, 2017

Drifting down around me, the adornments of autumn, dressed in stunning colors, enhance the finale before me. Minimalism has shaded the landscape in hues of gray and white. A unique autumn light streams through the green fir trees. The Canadian geese are off to South Carolina (or there about) and the lack of their honk leaves a profound silence. The sound of the rushing tide of the Bay of Fundy, a tide that moves twenty-nine feet twice a day in it’s dance with the moon, ruffled my imagination. The shrill cry of a glossy black crow pierced my shell, and I went back to my work.

November 2, 2017

St Odilo, the abbot of the monastery in Cluny France, instituted “All Souls Day” in 993 AD. Sugar skulls, which symbolize death and/or rebirth, were elaborately colored and placed on the graves on the day of the dead. Bright yellow marigolds, a traditional flower associated with the dead were also in abundance on shrines for the day of the dead. Some say the Marigold represents the “rays of the sun”. Remembering the dead was a custom long before Christianity. People of many faiths believe that remembering the dead brings the soul of the deceased back and alive in our presence.

October 27, 2017

October 31st marks 500 years since an Augustinian priest published his 95 complaints against the Church. His complaints were honest concerns. Here are just a few: Luther wanted lay people to have a bible in their own language, to have the mass in their own language. He wanted lay people to receive communion in their hands and to be offered the chalice. He wanted communion rails taken down and people to stand in line. He protested against the selling of indulgences, especially to raise money to build St. Peter's. He wanted priests to offer mass together as opposed to saying mass individually at side altars. This was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation and developed into a Revolution as most reformations do in history.

October 19, 2017

Where ,oh where, have the “Woolly Bears” gone? For seven years these banded Woolly bear caterpillars appeared in droves in the autumn as they searched for the perfect place to hibernate in the winter and reappear in spring as moths. This year there are none! The “Farmer’s Almanac” says “Woolly bears” predict the winter weather by the size of the brown band between the two black bands. I wonder how accurate this idea may be. It is an adorable theory and has proven somewhat accurate over hundreds of years here in Maine. Is their disappearance attributable to a seven year cycle? I cannot quite believe it is “climate change”! One thing is for sure, there is one hermit in Maine that has time to miss them, and pray they will return next year.

October 12, 2017

Early in the morning, just as the first light appears over the ocean, the evenings frozen icing is seen capping the yellow and red trees that outline the water’s edge. This frost looks like the dripping frosting that covers “Hostess” cupcakes, all yellow or pink. By ten A.M. the frost is gone and winter’s unannounced brief visit evaporates before my eyes. By noon, the autumn garden springs back and the bluebirds return to feed. By Vespers, the temperature is fifty-six degrees and balmy weather returns. The dramatic shifts in weather are the norm for Autumn in New England. An unexpected now ticks relentlessly from my cuckoo clock. This real time account catches my attention at the edge of the frame of my imagination. What is real is always before me. What is next is the plan of God.

October 5, 2017

Twelve days after my open heart surgery, I sat on the side of my bed and cried. Everything was
black. I could not even imagine light again. This was my introduction to depression. Apparently
depression is common after traumatic surgery.
That terrible experience which lasted more than ten days taught me about the black hole of
depression. No one could cheer me. “Talk therapy” was of no use. I also learned that just saying
“I am fine” is a poor cover-up.
I have counseled many people with depression and many who are in denial.The good news is
that now doctors have medication to relieve most depression.
Spiritual depression is a similar malady. The insight of D. Martyn Lloyd-Sones into spiritual
depression is inspired: “We must never look at any sin in our past life in any way except that
which leads us to praise God and to magnify His grace in Jesus Christ”.

September 28, 2017

A small mouse with a large distended abdomen ran between my legs and under the door of the canned food pantry. She was slate gray in tone and was not at all afraid. In her mind, she and her babies were home for the winter. However I am trying to catch her for release in the barn before her babies are born. This removal to the barn is an annual autumn event and everyone seems content with their new accommodations. Sitting on a little wooden stool, I am held captive in my observation of the rhythm of life in the barn. All the animals who live in the barn are ruminants. The only sound is the slow cadence of their grinding teeth. I listen and wonder how they live on just hay. I watch the horses and goats comfortable to share their hay and treats. Everyone seems welcome. These days in Maine, most barns are abandoned or are used for automobiles. The dignity of just sitting in the barn with time to commune with the sights and sounds is almost a lost opportunity for meditation.

September 21, 2017

From over the roof, hundreds of Canadian geese cast a shadow on the pasture as they pause
on Weir cove to refresh themselves and rest. Their continual characteristic honking informs
each other when it is time to continue. After a few hours, they fly in formation out of the cove,
turning south for the winter. Sitting on the turf, I wonder what shall happen in their absence.
Autumn is a period of decline before winter, says the dictionary. However, I believe Autumn is a
time for saving and investing to get through winter. The absence of the Canadian geese is not a
time for longing, but a time to celebrate new hope.

September 14, 2017

The discovery of chocolate in the sixteenth century, forced the theologians to determine
whether, for rules of fasting, chocolate was a food or a liquid; but soon it was suspected of being inimical to chastity, and at last it’s consumption by some religious orders was forbidden.
Our later perspective may find this issue somewhat bizarre.
What will seem ridiculous one hundred years from now? Even fifty years from now?
We are all born in an historical moment in time and few of us have a correct vision of the future.
The terrible truth is that we must move forward even when we can not see clearly.
A frail wagon carries us forward, the wise one prays to see clearly the path of the Spirit.

September 8, 2017

On the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary, September 8th,
Twenty-eight years ordained to the priesthood,
Eighth anniversary of the Hermitage ministry,
I wish to acknowledge my deep and abiding gratitude to God for your care and support.

August 24, 2017

Monarchs are fronting the garlic patch where I sit soaking up the warm August sun. The mature
garlic flowers, in the shape of Russian onion domes, peel back to reveal next year's seeds. I
never saw a garlic flower before today. What a surprise to see the shape and the packed
contents. I feel moved to new heights of imagination. Garlic is one of the world’s oldest
cultivated vegetables and has been used as medicine for thousands of years. But it smells!
How often we miss the true value of something in our lives because they smell or look humble.
We get caught in our own narrow mindedness and fail to experience the hidden wonders that
surround us.

August 17, 2017

In his twilight years, “Hank” the Hermitage Saint Bernard, has taken to building nests out of the new hay in the barn. The sweet fresh smell of the new hay works magic on both of us. Surely he is not building to accommodate pups or a new girlfriend. It seems clear that he is building from some primal instinct.
We are told that instinct is the functional side of behavior while hormones are the silent drivers of behavior.
As we age, our hormones change and our behavior is made manifest by our primal instinct.
I have observed that the farm animals, like ourselves, exhibit primal instincts of fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, depression, loneliness, and boredom. However, the good news is that our hormones mitigate these primal instincts so they become vehicles of survival.
If hormones drive our behavior, then how does free will operate? The true role of hormones is slowly being recognized by scientists. Meanwhile, Hank and I dance in the piles of hay.

August 10, 2017

The truck arrived this weekend with three hundred and thirty two extra large bales of hay. My job was to stand at the bottom of the conveyor and swing 60 pound bales of hay onto the conveyor which carries the hay up to the loft on the second floor of the barn. However, because of advanced neuropathy in my feet, I kept losing my balance at the conveyor. I also realized that I was now too weak to swing the bales.
How did this weakness come upon me? I was embarrassed that I could no longer do the job.
The twenty-four year old truck driver took pity on me and told me to sit and he did my job.
So it comes to this !!!!!
After I had a good internal cry for my lost youth, I decided I must do what I am able to do. We all must reinvent ourselves with joy at each stage of life. It is the time we have NOW. I swallowed my limping masculine pride and cowboyed up to the new reality.
Today I feel more comfortable with myself. I stood back and realized that “it does not depend on me” but on the blessed assurance that God’s plan is at work. I must co-operate with it.

August 3, 2017

The land of “what might have been” is fraught with delusions. And “what might have been” goads our imagination and stirs hopeless dreams. Elon Musk only dreams of what MIGHT be and plans accordingly. The old adage: “plan your work and work your plan” envisions a laser focus with legitimate expectations.
These lessons prove hard for most people. Most people have regrets about the past and do not have a sure fire singular vision for what might be.
The outcome of “faith in the future” is determined by our faith in God. Romans 8:28 tells us that ALL things work for the good (even those we fear have failed) for those who love God.

July 27, 2017

Abraham Lincoln is reported to say: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.”
Last winter I saw a man in his pajamas chopping fire wood on a very cold morning. It is not that unusual if you don’t prepare well. Preparation for a Maine winter is much like sharpening an ax for the first four hours. It takes from August to October to prepare for the harsh Maine winter. Scraping and painting the porch and deck, stacking five cords of firewood, moving 300 bales of hay into the barn, are just a few of the annual preparations.
I marvel at the constant struggle to prepare and maintain not only buildings, but also personal health of mind and body. I often think that visiting doctors for preventative care is my new social life!
We prepare our soul to receive the Eucharist. Perhaps we must prepare our bodies to live deliberately.

July 20, 2017

Outside the window by the garden fence, the prolific rabbits, huge and brown, are having their best year in many years. With the introduction of the watchful alpine Mastiff, the rabbits are safe from coyotes and are thriving.
As I watched, the largest rabbit is trying to fit through the small square opening in the wire fence. The rabbits repeated attempts are both futile and humorous to watch.
How many times have we forced our way through the hole in the fences in life and found we were not safe on the other side?
The whiskers of our common sense serve to tell us the safe limits that determine our safe space. No one likes limits. However, surrendering a small slice of freedom, is small price to pay for good judgement.

July 13, 2017

Cheek to cheek, six inches from the clear brown eye of the Icelandic pony, we walk close together back to the barn.We look deep into each others eye while I whisper sweet nothings in Lokkur’s ear. All this to keep his attention on me and not on the tall luscious green grass all around us. The diversion works well.

I find my proximity to this 900 lb. horse intense, frightening, and intimate. Perhaps that is the same for both of us. Often I feel lost in his eye. I am sure he smells my breath, feels my touch and senses my face against his face. In truth our common world is made of touch and feelings.

Perhaps that is the best we can do, the horse and I. Perhaps it is enough.

I fear touch and feelings have become out of style in this manic world.

Touch and feelings is a staple among domestic animals but a legal and social quagmire between humans. Six inches from another’s eye violates our comfort space , so the law decrees.

Hug a loved one today.

copyright © 2018 Stella Maris Hermitage
SMH Aug 16 2018.mp3
Joseph Rose,
Aug 16, 2018, 1:14 PM