An Old Friend, My Bookend
A touching letter came today from Nora Chadwick—this is one I really love, though I have never actually met her. She is an old retired Cambridge professor in her eighties and an authority on Celtic monasticism. She is busy writing still. All about the old monks. She writes that she is delighted that I am living the same kind of life as the old guys she writes about: that there actually should be something of the sort in the world today. This is important to me. For she knows what monasticism is, and she respects the reality of monastic solitude (not the ersatz and the institutionalized forms that have survived today). That there should be men willing to live in real solitude. Seeing it through her eyes, I am deeply moved by the meaning of this strange life. Here I am in the middle of it. I know I have not been truly faithful to it in many ways. I have evaded it. Yet who can say what its real demands are, other than the one who must meet them? And who knows what were the failures and problems of those forgotten people who actually lived as solitaries in the past? How many of them were lonely, and in love?
All I know is that here I am, and the valley is very quiet, the sun is going down, there is no human being around, and as darkness falls I could easily be a completely forgotten person, as if I did not exist for the world at all. (Though there is one who remembers and whom I remember.) The day could easily come when I would be just as invisible as if I never existed, and still be living here on this hill. And I know that I would be perfectly content to do so.
June 18, 1966,VI.314