Protection on a back country road

angel lettersIn the summer of 1976 I had occasion to drive to Washington, D.C., where my two sisters live. … We drove east on Interstate 40 to its intersection with the highway that parallels the Blue Ridge Mountains. … We found ourselves on a narrow, back country road that went around barns, made sharp turns that were poorly marked, and was pretty slow going. Eventually, though, it straightened out and I was soon doing about forty miles per hour. It was very dark, the dense evergreen woods contributing to the blackness. … Suddenly B. yelled out, “Look out!” A tall elderly man in a long gray overcoat (it was summer) stepped slowly to the side of the road. He motioned gravely to me to slow down. It was the motion of the hand with the fingers pointing down, not the “Stop!” or “Come!” gesture.
     When the car was maybe ten yards away from him, the man just disappeared. He did not step back. He did not move at all. He simply was no longer there. …
     “He isn’t there!” B. said, as she looked out the back window for him. It was so dark, she probably would not have seen him anyway. Meanwhile I was slowing with the idea of maybe backing up to look for him. But the road made one of those quick turns, and I slammed hard on the brakes. There, where we would have plowed right into them at forty miles an hour, was a group of twenty or so deer. They were standing in the middle of the road. As my headlights struck them, they slowly ambled off to my left, one or two at a time. …
     Although I have been a writer almost all of my life, I have never been into fiction. In nonfiction there is usually a known ending to the story, and when there is no explanation, that is part of the account. I still have no explanation for the man in Virginia that night.  –J.C.C., Colorado Springs, Colorado



On contemplation

gift from the sea …, the answer is not in the feverish pursuit of centrifugal activities which only lead in the end to fragmentation. … On the contrary, she must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project or a great work. But it should be something of one’s own. Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day—like writing a poem, or saying a prayer. What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.

On the need to be alone

gift from the sea Actually these are among the most important times in one’s life—when one is alone. Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships. She must find that inner stillness which Charles Morgan describes as “the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still.”