Maggie Ross is a life-professed solitary under vows to the Archbishop of Canterbury. She divides her time between Alaska and Oxford, England. The author keys the Christian meditations in this poignant collection, first published in 1983, to the church year.
In one essay, Ross reveals the two comments she receives most are "You don't look like a hermit," followed by "What do you do in solitude?" She answers, "I don't do, I be." Only an experienced mystic could put the emphasis on being and not doing. Being in solitude, Ross has plenty of time to savor the beauties and the bounties of the natural world and animals. She does both here. We were also impressed with pieces on the importance of an informing vision, the value of chastity, and the difficulty of intercessory prayer. We are always on the lookout for passages on unity and here is one we liked:
"It is that my sin and your sin consists not in isolated small or gross acts committed or omitted by our choices and actions, or in some vague, isolated theoretical attitude, but instead that we, you and I, by virtue of our common humanity, and in the solitude from which true relationship springs, come to realize that we are implicated in every sin.
"I am the pimp on 42nd Street, dealing in bodies.
I am the pusher, selling drugs to an addict nodding and drooling in Needle Park.
I am the employee ripping off my corporation.
I am the industrialist pouring poison into the bodies and, by advertising, into the souls of my sisters and brothers.
I am the driver of the military juggernaut, careening wildly out of control.
I struggle impotently to express who I really am."