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Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

to the living walls.

Who are you?
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”

- In Silence, Thomas Merton

Much of my holiday time is spent walking long-distance footpaths. Most of the time I am walking I have a camera in my hand.

There is something about having a camera in my hand that helps me to attend, to see the detail of my surroundings. I see ants on the footpath in front of me, and modify my stride-length to ensure that I do not step on them; I notice tiny flowers and the insects that are busy gathering their nectar and pollinating them as a gift in return. I notice the framing provided by trees as I look at the distant mountains.

My camera somehow helps me to be more of a contemplative; to live in the moment; to attend to life; to notice God. To see things as they really are.

In his poem, In Silence, Thomas Merton reflects on this dynamic. He suggests that if we enter a contemplative state that we eventually come to see and hear the presence of God in all things and come to appreciate that everything is secretly on fire, burning with the love of God.

In In Silence Merton echoes the awareness and praise expressed by the Psalmist (Psalm 19.1, for example) and other poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins (See his poem God’s Grandeur) and Mary Oliver (See her poem, I Wake Close to Morning).

Merton also, I think, invites us to discover what practices - carrying a camera, sitting in a chapel before the blessed sacrament, weeding the garden, walking the dog, praying the rosary, swimming laps in the pool, attending the Eucharist, cooking a family dinner or listening to jazz - enable us to enter the contemplative space that sensitises us to recognising the transforming fire of God, present in the everyday.