Thursday, December 31, 2015


Silence has its own way of showing me things that have nothing to do with language, vision, or anything I could directly name. I don’t know how to articulate it. Perhaps it’s one of those things that words simply fall short of being able to describe.
So, with that said, I’ve been thinking about silence a lot today. I went out on my deck and leaned into the space my mother used to call the portal, the space just before the forest begins. Last night after the rain finally ended, the clouds surrounded Sharptop and showed me gradations and spectrums of color I haven’t seen before. The light there is always different. A blessing even in times of grief and fear. But silence and solitude can be so kind here. They can also seem like a desert of sorts, I confess. There’s an emptiness I feel here that is both frightening and beautiful. I don’t think emptiness is the best word for it, but it will have to do. It’s related to silence, I suppose. In the silence here, there are of course forest noises, and occasionally the sound of a car going by on Cove Road up above my property, but there are not the claiming and clamorous voices of students or friends or family. I love those voices most of the time. But here I feel like I’m standing on the edge of something more than just my deck. I think I am still afraid of it. It doesn’t just show up here. It likes to save itself mostly for the woods and swamps. It isn’t trying to disconnect me from community or anyone else in a tangible, literal way. But it does sure enough want something from me. Perhaps by “it” I mean God. I suppose that’s true, since I believe (even when I don’t feel it) that God is in everything, all of us, all the time. I think of Maurice Manning’s beautiful poem from the Bucolics collection, the one where he’s talking to God and says “what I want from you is nothing Boss compared to what you want from me”. That feels very true for me too. It doesn’t feel like a scold, though, even when I haven’t been meditating, praying, reading, or working in the ways I feel like I “should” be. It is much more of a promise. It’s exciting, actually.
I don’t think it will ever be what I think it will be, that “experience” of being claimed and held.

For me silence is as much about seeing as anything else. For me to see in a way that recognizes the ordinary holiness and beauty in absolutely everything, I need silence. I don’t recognize that beauty all of the time, but when I do it seems to permeate everything and everybody. It can be very intense, even tiring. It doesn’t “play favorites” but it isn’t aloof or remote. It holds everyone’s soul to its Heart, this silence. It sees everyone as its favorite. I want to trust it more. I don’t need locutions or dramatic conversations with God, though I hope I would be open to them if God wanted me to be. I want to feel the Heart of silence, which I tend to feel as the Heart of Christ and of Jesus. I am kinder and more patient when I try to put myself in this “space.” Sometimes it comes to me of its own accord, thank God. I am thinking of so many times at the land off of Griffith Road or over by Hidden Pond. Times when I feel a poignancy to the edge of everything, from the sudden appearance of a rabbit at the edge of the path to the sound of a whippoorwhill before it’s gotten dark. There can be a melancholy present, I guess, but I don’t know that I would really name it as such. It’s some sort of alloy. It’s something like what Rilke wrote about in the Tenth Duino Elegy when he wished he could have received and surrendered to his nights of suffering more closely. It’s Lawrence’s three strange angels. It might even be a cousin of Pascal’s FIRE…God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. It’s what held me in place for unnoticed hours that summer afternoon in Kentucky, overcome with joy and love beside the statue of Jesus and his crimson heart. I think it must be with me all the time. If I can begin---continue?---to be able to recognize it in any given moment, to let it open and share its silent heart with me, I will be---what? Happy? Not that, necessarily….maybe grateful? Actually, “present” is the best word I can find, which is paradoxical because what I’m talking about is really, I think, more about absence than presence---it has often felt that way, anyway. I can sometimes conceive of the absence as a benediction, a presence, even when it feels like emptiness, and that is a huge grace. I can’t think of anything more—or less--I would want to pray for. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

along the way

The early light of this midwinter
weather is finally choosing
its full name.
Poor and transformative,
the humble challenge
of your desert Heart
shares its imagination
with every cloud,
every changing sky,
every hungry traveller
who washes the feet
of Jesus
in the busy city
along the way to becoming
the promised Feast.

----Laura Sorrells
Advent 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Beside this big old bed is a paper lamp. It is a column of orange light whispering to someone I can’t see as I sit on the edge of the bed and wait for my thoughts to stop. I know something I cannot say, can’t even begin to articulate, and the orange light holds that knowledge in its secret supernatural voice like clear water in a metal bowl. The story of light has been trying to let me know something in my dreams. I have been resistant to it, like everyone else before me. But there is no denying the reality of its narrative, its power, its tricky strength, its trajectory of claiming. Filaments of orange light peer through little holes in the paper lamp’s cylindrical body and I think of a column of fire, a tongue of flame dancing and insistent. Something burning but stable and unchanging. When will I know what to do? When will the silent fire decide to speak my name? I sigh and slide between the cool white cotton of the bedsheets. The lamp’s glass bulb flickers like a candle, goes out for a second, then reappears, tinged with a purple undercurrent that is impossible to identify with my eyes but is somehow undeniably present nonetheless. I sit up and listen for the wind, for the way the branches of the shedding red oaks sound against the glass of the big windows that open onto the forest. A shower of acorns pelts the tin roof and the lamp gutters like a torch and goes out. Breathless but not exactly fearful, I close my eyes to hear what the fire has to say, adding a layer of chosen darkness to the hologram of orange and purple that inhabits the new dark of the air around me. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

an older post where the font went ghostly

Sometimes there’s a hum that hovers across and over this patch of land, like cicadas in August or the wheeze of a strange, busted harmonica a little boy might find chucked in with his toys, a mystery song waiting to happen, caught in holes between tin. But tonight the stillness separates and parses the air, like mist rising over a pond early in the morning. Just beyond the cow pasture the old log cabin has on its new face, its two chimneys stouter now and its windows immaculate and maybe even a little impenetrable. I miss its crumbling edges, the triangle of air at the bottom of the front left-hand window. And I am not sure I want the old stone wall around the little cemetery to be restored. I like the mossy moats that separate its stones. There is even talk of cutting down the cedar tree by the cemetery entrance. Its lopsided coniferous grace is a benediction to me, though, a familiar sentinel over the years, when I’ve come to pay my respects to Laura Sorrells Smith, born 1878, died 1905. Last time I was here I stacked a small cairn of stones from the pinewoods by her marker. History is palpable here, a prayer for continuity and awareness, a blessing into kin. The broken places show it best. Their shabby beauty needs the gentle tending that honors their splits and rifts, that lets their fractured beauty be seen by those who need their stories and their lonesome strength. I’ll miss them if they’re fixed. For now I don’t mind moving tousles of pinestraw away from the shapes of angels and the curves of my family name.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Kudzu does its thing
Green encroachment claiming earth
No one is still home

Friday, June 26, 2015


fireflies in the woods
flashing points of vivid light
mocking the Smartphone

lks 6/26/15

an acknowledgment

speeding ticket paid
the tyranny of the screen
consumes the silence

----lks 6/26/15

Sunday, April 12, 2015

a place in the family

There’s a slender lavender cloud hanging in the sky of dusk here. The hornet’s nest, still sizeable despite its collapse in the snow this past February, seems to have taken on some of the purple-ish hue of the cloud. When I get up to let the cat out I can’t even see the purple cloud from that angle. When I sat down again the cloud was almost gone, its edges already blue and deeper than its heart.
The feeling of silent accompaniment has been powerfully present the past few times I have gone walking at the church property off Griffith Road. There was that one evening about three weeks ago before anything had started greening up----I felt the accompaniment so distinctly that I called out “Hello?” several times. I was walking the Stations of the Cross but did not finish them. Then on Wednesday of Holy Week I went out there again but didn’t even kid myself about finishing all fourteen stations. At least I know how many there are now. Tonight I walked around the little memorial garden, pausing at my mother’s marker, and took some pictures of dogwood blossoms coming apart. I felt the accompaniment strongly. I attributed it to the fact that I was near Mom’s grave, and that could have been it. But the feeling grew. Finally I went down to the pond, the one I call Snake Doctor Pond because of the hordes of dragonflies that gather there in summer. I noticed a single Canadian goose in the middle of the pond, seemingly perched on top of the water, with its neck drooping over so that it appeared to be sipping from the pond’s surface. I think there is some metal contraption out there that has some sort of function. Probably that’s what the goose was perched on. But the goose was so still that at first I thought it was some sort of decoy. It didn’t move for a long time. It didn’t make sense that it was a decoy, but it was so perfectly still, with that arched neck. So I took some pictures of the corner of the pond with its brassy golden light turning into glitter on the water. When I turned back the goose had moved its head up so that it was peering at me. I coughed and the goose kind of flinched but only a little. It reminded me of a lone goose I saw on Holy Saturday at the monastery in 2012, that liminal and intense day. I had just read the Mary Oliver poem Wild Geese when I saw that goose perched on a fallen sapling in the pond shallows. I mean that I had been sitting by the pond reading it in Mary’s Best Of Her Poetry volume two.  "Announcing your place in the family of things. " Tonight my mind felt much calmer and quieter than has been usual lately, especially for a Sunday. No anxiety, no angst, no worry, no fear. Sundays sometimes present me with that stereotypical diffuse anxiousness that I suppose many people have right before the work week starts back up. I thought of a couple of things----again of the Eliot lines, “But who is that other who walks beside you?” from The Waste Land. I think of how I looked those lines up at the monastery a week ago yesterday, in the little retreat house library. I looked for them in The Four Quartets for some reason first and ended up rereading almost all of the Quartets.  "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.I had forgotten how much I love those poems, especially Little Gidding. The next morning, which was of course Easter, Father Tom Francis began talking about The Four Quartets at the final conference of the retreat. I think it was in the context of talking about transfiguration. Fire, rose, heart, shirt of flame, be still.
The other thing I thought about tonight at the pond was a scene in the Franco Zeffirelli miniseries Jesus of Nazarethwhich I have watched one and a half times since I bought the series on DVD just after Ash Wednesday. I keep skipping back to watch scenes of healing, conversation, and challenge, to see Robert Powell’s handsome English Jesus look happy to hang out with the little kids, to listen to him rage at the Pharisees and draw one small circle carefully in some sand. He puts a little dot in the center of the circle and looks up to speak to the people about to stone the adulteress. I am being avoidant in not watching the Passion scenes again. At any rate, the scene I thought of was at Gethsemane, when Judas approaches Jesus. Jesus says, This is your hour, Judas. The hour of shadows. I found myself trying to recall if those lines were in the Gospels. I still don’t know those texts as well as I might. There is poetry there, though, even so. No allegory necessarily, just words that hold sound. Maybe a kind of paradoxical nod to the darkness, calling beauty into it. Beauty was of course already there, but it needs speaking to sometimes very deliberately.
I still kind of feel the accompaniment, even here at home. The sky is dark now, the lavender cloud subsumed by the night. The mountain is the same color as the forest. One roseate manmade light winks halfway up it. That in turn reminds me of something I read in a book about the mountains and forests around and on the Qualla Boundary, how there are these mysterious lights that move and appear in a ghostly way, like foxfire about to become airborne. I think of the place at the convergence of those two rivers where I stayed this summer and of watching the geese navigate the green and silver water as the river currents came together. I have always felt a heart of gentle sacredness in that place. The geese seemed silent witness to that, reminding me of my place in that family of things, of how it is no place and every place. A body, an accompaniment, one quick light, a cloud becoming sky.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

the secret changes

My pilgrim heart
waits for you
in the middle of
its own unrecognized
silent compass.
Your wordless psalm
lets me pray along
with it, all of us
alive together
here in the secret
changes of faith's
transfiguring night.

©Laura Sorrells 2015
all rights reserved

Sunday, March 22, 2015

hidden and emptied

The hidden breath of faith
murmurs a lonely
little prayer
in the unmoving cave
of my emptied
heart. Listen to its silent
passion and
surround its shape
with your radiant
Paschal love.

©Laura Sorrells 2015
all rights reserved

Friday, March 6, 2015

Where I'm From (2007 version)

I am from the mountains and forests of north central Georgia, from the slanting foundation of Sorrells Springs Primitive Baptist Church, from Wild Turkey Trail and picnics in the Baldwin Street Cemetery, from the old Floyd homeplace on Dog Lane, from drinking Dancing Goats coffee with lots of sugar on College Square, from breaking curfew at North Georgia and from the greening energy of California’s Central Valley in springtime. I am from late night walks on the shores of Lake Herrick, from climbing the fire tower at Lake Conasauga, from the wall at Fort Mountain and the boom of Kennesaw cannons. I am from wild turkeys at my mother’s grave, from rose-hued sunrises over Sharptop’s spire, from go-cart paths in the pastures and from buying sweetgrass lotion at Chipa’s powwows. I am from the streets of New York City, from Big Sur and Wupatki, and from Namaste on the path at Mingo Falls. I am from wading in the Studdards’ creek, from long intellectual harangues at the Globe, and from In the Night Café. I am from the Dollar Tree and from the musty stacks at Jackson Street Books, from discount CDs at Ruthless Records and from vintage brooches found in thrift store sale bins. I am from Spanish moss on the ghost beach at Jekyll and from the tabby ruins of old Darien, from Brunswick stew and dolphins, and from Christmas fireworks over the square in Ellijay.
I am from the scent of woodsmoke at Trackrock, my grandmother’s teacakes baking, my mother’s Wind Song perfume, from Nag Champa incense and patchouli oil, from the summery funk of lakewater and mud at the Braswells’ bass pond, from the poignant waft of sweetshrub and honeysuckle through my open window in springtime, from the grittiness of Athens city streets at three a.m., and from leather and hay in the tackroom at the barn.
I am from Johnny Cash, from Radiohead, from REM playing incognito at the 40 Watt Club, from Gospel Jubilees on Sunday mornings on my grandma’s television set, from the Andy Griffith theme song, and from the haunted calls of whippoorwhills in the dusk over the soybean fields. I am from Two More Bottles of Wine, from Neal Pattman’s one-armed blues genius on Wednesday nights, from Smells Like Teen Spirit, and from my stairway settling in the wind on a cold January night. I am from silence and bluegrass, from grunge and discourse, from Southern drawls and crickets chorusing in the hardwoods. I am from Leonard Cohen and Patty Griffin, from Kind of Blue and Nighthawks at the Diner, and from the snapping self-conversation of the Epiphany bonfire over by the lake.
I am from red-eye gravy and pancakes, from strong lattes laced with nutmeg, from Grandma’s creamed potatoes swimming in butter, from tomato aspic and mayonnaise at Thanksgiving, from pepper jelly and cream cheese, from sushi at Seal Beach, from Tut’s Chicken, and from peanuts submerged in RC Cola on a hot July afternoon. I am from my mother’s fried okra, from tentative sips of my dad’s Miller Lite, from lime fizzy water, from persimmons crawling with wasps at the edge of the woods, from the infinity of blackberries, from scorched campfire hot dogs, and from my grandma’s time-honored barbecue sauce saturating chicken breasts on Styrofoam plates.
I am from Doc, Ruth, Duff, and Marjorie, from Marvin and Kathryn and Joan, and from generations of Southern housewives and farmers. I am from revenuers and sheriffs, from artistry and shock treatments, from scandal and honor, and from quiltframes and pastels. I am from bitter divorce, from grace and forgiveness, and from climbing trees and building huts in the woods with Leigh and Lynn. I am from Betsy’s crush on Erik Estrada, from Azalee’s loyal insanity, from Big Gary and Wanda, from Louis and Carolyn, from Uncle Kenneth’s incessant rocking, and from my great-aunt Fannie Mae’s recipe chests and herbal teas. I am from Mr. Gorman’s third grade writing prompts, from Hitchcock on Friday afternoons, and from making peace with small town presence and absence.
I am from Chinook’s rocking canter across the Colquitts’ pasture, from Shellie’s pawshakes and Whitefoot’s atonal howls, from Connor the fighting tom with the milky left eye, and from litter after litter of April kittens birthed under the screen porch. I am from Tess’ grave at the foot of the mountainsteps, from Scoutcat Sorrells flying into the cedar tree, from rescuing the cedar waxwing, and from Bailey the chameleon. I am from the exploding aquarium at the Van Horne house, from taming Annabel, from hawk sightings over the athletic field, and from the bear on the deck during the drought. I am from five raccoons dangling from the bird feeder, from the ghost possum leaning against the glass door, and from the jackrabbit in the desert.
I am from Ulysses, from Boo Radley saving the Finch kids on Hallowe’en night, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, from Julian and Lao-Tzu, and from the journals of Thomas Merton. I am from haiku and metaphor, from Yeats and Eliot, from Conrad and Hurston, from Where the Wild Things Are, Encyclopedia Brown, and A Wrinkle in Time, and from rediscovering my seventh grade diary in my dad’s attic when I was thirty-five. I am from Christabel and Blake’s Tyger, from Charlie Brown Christmas trees and Krishnamurti, from “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” and from One Hundred Years of Solitude. I am from Rumi and Issa, from Bob Dylan and Alice Walker, from Mary’s wild geese and Robert’s Mending Wall, and from Lyra and her daemon. I am from teaching Antigone to kids who can barely read, from The Highwayman and Annabel Lee, from Frankenstein and Tupac, and from reading Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes aloud to my students during Black History Month. I am from Wayfarers in Walton and The Bone People, from Sherman Alexie and John Steinbeck, and from student essays and poems crowding my dining room table.
I am from Kurosawa and Kubrick, from Little House on the Prairie and Tuesday nights with mom and The Gilmore Girls, from Georgia Backroads and Prairie Home Companion, from Sesame Street and The Electric Company, and from endless reruns of Northern Exposure. I am from Wild Strawberries and Lone Star, from The Last Waltz and Night of the Hunter, from Land of the Lost and Charlie’s Angels, from Hee Haw on Saturday nights and Law and Order episodes back to back on a rainy day. I am from the peace sticker on my battered old Ford sedan, from riding bikes to the corner, from the passenger seat of the blue go-cart, and from cutting my hand open on the hood ornament of my dad’s antique Buick.
I am from the warmth of flannel shirts in winter, from pinestraw beneath my bare feet, from magnolia pods crunching underfoot, from hearthheat and firewarmth at the Cove, from the gold plaid seats of my Chevy Nova, from comfort and struggle, from running through the sprinkler and inhaling chlorine water at the country club pool, from the Atlantic Ocean in December and from Pacific tidal pools crowded with black oystercatchers. I am from travel and stasis, from longing and contentment, from passion and solitude, and from loneliness and intense joy. I am from grief and connection, from remembrance and yearning, and from the celebratory richness of the journey.

----lks 2007

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snow Day the Second

Snow Day Number Two. The house is warm and secure, but parts of it are what you might call ‘broken.’ It needs so much work. Essentially it is solid, but I see the places where restoration needs to happen, where cracks and shifts show me what it needs. Brokenness is sometimes just a pain in the ass, but it can also be beautiful. As I sit and look out over the snow-touched landscape of the mountain forest outside my window, I see the beauty in the brokenness of the big hornets’ nest falling apart in the cold winter air. I see it in the psychedelic vibrancy of the top part of a glass Victorian gazing ball I once had on a stand in the front yard. Now the glass ball sits atop the glass table on my snowy deck and captures hints of the shapes surrounding it. I notice the shards of a broken cup, pale green and cream colored with strands of peat-brown. I remember when an old boyfriend of mine, a man I almost married, bought me that cup at the local Arts Center. There were tiny insects—not ants, more like candleflies or termites, but not quite those either---all over the larger, deeper pieces of pottery on the table with the cup. There was something haunting and curiously compelling about their presence, there in the sharpening air of late autumn. I think now too about the brokenness of memory, or its potential brokenness. Who can say when a memory’s life becomes broken? Perhaps it never fully does. I do know that the courage a person with such a memory can have is more powerful than many other things that are, or seem to be, fully intact, whole, and undamaged. The way such a person asks kindly and respectfully for the favor of a phone call for information, over and over even after the information was acquired and written down in two places, can begin to break my heart. I think of the patience that question entails. Its asking implies that that question has already, perhaps, been asked and not acknowledged or responded to. It does not harbor irritation or anger in the context of that. It just, quietly and lovingly, asks again. There is something about that echo that reminds me of the grace of prayer. I am not sure if I am thinking about the listener or the one who is praying, or maybe of the Voice of God and the one receiving that Voice. Maybe it’s a dialectic of both. Maybe the asking and the answering are so closely connected that they can become almost the same. I don’t know what that would look or sound like. Maybe that coming together would obliterate the need for asking, but maybe not. Maybe the asking would carry its own grace, its own respectful, adoring petition for inclusion in the heartbeat of relationship. There is, inherent in all of this, a sweet brokenness that, paradoxically, is not truly and finally broken at all, at least not in any sense that keeps out what needs to get in or keeps in what needs to be released. This Lent, living into that heartbeat seems to be what I need. I don’t know how to define it or describe it more concretely or adequately. It wants to come to live in my heart, and I want to let it. That’s all I seem to need to know for now.

©Laura Sorrells 2015
all rights reserved

Saturday, February 21, 2015

This Nest

This nest is a shadow slipping away from itself into the body of the world.
This nest is the back of a pirate’s head, stern and foolish in its seadrenched tousle of cloth.
This nest is the wing of a raptor, tipped with sky and the shouts of smaller creatures on the forest floor below.
This nest is the punctuation of weather.
This nest is a whirlwind, mute but full of consequence.
This nest is an acclamation, a bow to the magic of work in the night.
This nest is a cave, silent until you go deep enough to hear the sound of waterfalls.
This nest is a knot in the archetypal tree of life, puzzled by its own antiquity and size.
This nest is the way a well looks suspended in air and soft with the deficit of shallow mud.
This nest is a big velvet curtain with a heavy tasseled cord to make it move.
This nest is a wooden barrel waiting for the warm rain of April.
This nest is the head of a bear, asleep in a place no one knows to look for.
This nest has the bold but fragile determination of wax across the lip of an envelope, waiting to be disturbed and even broken.
This nest is a witness to the work of dry days in midwinter.
This nest is the shift of a clenched fist into an outstretched palm, offered sideways as a salutation and a nod.
This nest wants to be a bonfire but settles for claiming the bodies of fierce and dangerous creatures who carry the sting of flame.
This nest is a saint, a relic of patience.
This nest is the cousin of the mountaintop it frames against the silver winter sky.
This nest is some kind of promise, a paradox of stillness hoarding strength.
This nest is a cloud heavy with repentance and ready to shed its burdens into the waiting boughs of leafless trees in Lent.
This nest has a language made of scents and shapes, of the flavors of treebark and basil, of the song that the eaves sing in high winds.
This nest knows things about the land that no one else does. It might be waiting for the question that will make it hum like a harp or a banjo.
This nest is the cape of a journeying hero, ragged from the clutch of foreign caverns.
This nest is a sheet of lightning, waiting for the chance to be a fork.
This nest is a boulder stuck in the cleft of a rushing river, eager to make friends with stranded paddlers.
This nest is the head of a giant, used to the way things look in thinning air.
This nest claims its own sovereignty but still does what the stormwinds say it should.
This nest knows the syllables of three seasons and hopes to learn the language of the fourth.
This nest is not a compromise or a loss. It lives with being torn apart and shredded. A little bit of its sleeping heart will hang around like a hologram in the space above the forest when it falls, even if the textures of its walls have long since crumbled. Its brokenness is part of the horizon’s memory palace forever, one of those subtle claims that nature has on time, a bookmark inserted in between the pages of an empty wordless book shaped like a circle.
©Laura Sorrells 2015
all rights reserved

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Testament of Dom Christian de Cherge

If it should happen one day, and it could be today, that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country. I ask them to accept the fact that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I would ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity. My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value either. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.
I would like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who will strike me down. I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this. I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder. It would be too high a price to pay for what will perhaps be called the "grace of martyrdom" to owe this to an Algerian, whoever he may be, especially if he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam. 
I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately. I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters. It is too easy to soothe one's conscience by identify this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists. For me, Algerian and Islam are not that, but rather a body and a soul. I have proclaimed this often enough, I think, in the light of what I have received from it. I so often find there that true strand of the Gospel which I learned at my mother's knee, my very first Church, precisely in Algeria, and already inspired with respect for Muslim believers.

Obviously, my death will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: "Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!" But these persons should know that finally my most avid curiosity will be set free. This is what I shall be able to do, please God: immerse my gaze in that of the Father to contemplate with him His children of Islam just as he sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.
For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything. In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families. You are the hundredfold granted as was promised!
And you, too, my friend of the last moment, who will not have known what you were doing: 
Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this "A-DIEU" to be for you, too, because in God's face I see yours.

May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both. AMEN! IN SH'ALLAH!

 -----Christian de Cherge
Tibhirine, 1994

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About Me

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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at or