Saturday 26 February 2022


One of the special teas sent by Sister Linh Bảo, my friend and student at Plum Village, is Zitronenmelisse, otherwise known by the equally soothing name, Lemon Balm.

I have taken to drinking a herbal tea every night - another favourite is Twinings Digest in the flavour of 'Spearmint, Apple and Rooibos with Baobab'. I think about my monastic friends and the mindful significance of brewing and then drinking a cup of tea, alone or together. Alone, we are still together. 

Last night, I wept after reading about the reality of American evacuations in Afghanistan, simultaneously thinking about the Ukrainians trying to decide whether to stay, fight or flee. Today, I spoke with my dear sister, who took her phone, and via the magic of zoom, showed me around the outside of Thây’s hermitage in Lower Hamlet, specially pointing out the Fragrant Stream in the middle of the Bamboo Forest. Then suddenly, by Thây’s favourite swing, three giant Ukrainian pine trees. Thây had brought them back to France to plant in his beloved space. The sight gave me so much comfort. The timing was so beautiful. 

Tonight I, like so many others, find my way to this poem of Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy...

Let This Darkness Be A Bell Tower

Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

(from Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29)

Sofiis'ka Square, Bell Tower, Kiev © Michele Ursino


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Gah. That poem could not be more beautiful at this particular moment. I had not read it before. Thanks for posting it. It is wonderful you were able to zoom to Thay's village. Balm for the soul in the bamboo forest.

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