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  • Writer's pictureRoMa Johnson

Hermitage Diary 2021

Updated: Apr 15, 2022

Day 1 10/22/2020

In my journal I draw a picture (based on the memory of an iconic photograph) of Thomas Merton standing on the porch of his little white cottage at the liminal threshold between Gethsemani and Eden. I step out into the morning, follow the sound of the waterfall to the pond, then stand watching, watching for the Salmon of Wisdom to appear. I perambulate the garden, touching red berries on one slender branch, redder berries on another, while trees I cannot name dance and rustle their percussive leaves like a jazz drummer brushing his snare to sleep long after the club has closed. I step onto a hexagonal platform with a wrought iron frame, its purpose—flooring for some forgotten festival or nomad yurt—shrouded, its wooden boards calmly, brownly deliquescing into mulch. I stop and bend to stroke a sky blue mushroom emerging seductively, stickily, pushing the morning leaf cover aside (I haven’t forgotten those days.). Unnoticing, I walk through a spider web stretched across the path to my door. I admit that I noticed only when the imprisoned fly hung two inches from my face. As I pulled away one silk strand remained attached to me; the farther I moved, the longer the thread extended to maintain contact. In that moment I felt captured.

I’m in England now, whether virtually or real-ly I can no longer say: I travel here so often on the songlines of meditation and dream.

Moment by moment, though, as I re-acquaint myself with British plumbing and tea kettles and duvets and unfathomable window latches and massive electrical plugs the size of apples and the switches that make them work, and rows of muddy boots inside every doorway and the smell of the sea, however far away, inside every breeze, I come to earth here and take up my hermitage.

Day 5 10/26/2020

Still a little upside down with the clock. I get up, make coffee, chant my Psalm and read a chapter of Jeremiah, celebrating the times we’re in. I find that if you substitute certain current words and characters, the message is current:

· Tell this to the nations, proclaim concerning the [US]; a besieging [pandemic] is coming from a distant land, raising a [death] cry against the cities of the [States].

· Your conduct and actions have brought this on you.

This is your punishment, how bitter it is, how it pierces to the heart!

· Disaster follows disaster, the whole land lies in ruins…

· My people are fools; they do not know me.

They are senseless children; they have no understanding.

They are skilled in doing evil, they know not how to do good.

· At the sound of the [firetrucks and ambulances] every town takes to flight.

Some go to into the [shelters] and some [evacuate] among the rocks.

All the towns are deserted, no one lives in them.

· What are you doing, you devastated one?

Jer 4

Day 6 10/27/2020

Rain all day. I do not see another human being the entire day. Odd, even in Princeton at the heaviest of lock down, I would go out walking and see other people, ghosts in masks walking down the middle of the empty streets. No one here but me this wet day. I putter—as one does on dark days—and finish up a couple of projects, then walk my circuit in the pouring rain, 20 turns around the garden—2700 steps—in raingear and winter hat and wet shoes. Ah to be in England…

Halfway through the circuit, when I pause and look over the gate to the cemetery, I am deeply conscious each time of Samhain coming, and think of how I might invite my beloved dead to a Dumb Feast with no other guests. I shall have to ask for candles.

Of course, Samhain will be accompanied by a full Blue Moon, a near-miss asteroid, gargantuan wildfires in California, a new hurricane approaching Florida, another Black man murdered in the city… and the election. Well, girls, put on your eyelashes, glue sparklers to your tits, get out your most outrageous 11” high-heels and your fishnet stockings, tuck your candy out of sight, and grab your Dolly Parton wig: there’s going to be a partay tonight!

Despite Jeremiah, one must surely believe that God loves drag.


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