When I first learned of the Camaldolese, I thought of the three-fold good as an actual map of an actual landscape. And I still think of it that way.
What also interested me from the beginning was the idea of a trail that would lead back and forth between the cloister and the wild.
(That's me in the forest hiking up towards the crest of the Apennines from beyond the open back gate of the Eremo.)
And so at Romuald Duscher's prompting, my friend Steve Chambers and I found the original homestead trail between the Hermitage and Twitchell Flat and then with Romuald and others we cleared and opened that trail again. This meant a direct and open connection between the Hermitage and the Ventana wilderness — such as there had always been for the Salinan people of this coast.
Raimundo Panikaar has said that...
"The salvation of humankind depends upon well-worn paths between huts."
And that has been my own conviction, too — a conviction that's also reflected in the spirit of the Four Winds Council.
Nor have I missed the irony in Dante having his St. Benedict praise Romuald for being a monk who "kept his feet within the cloister" since Dante knew that Romuald wandered everywhere and that when he did settle in a place he generally made sure to establish his own hermitage somewhere outside the monastery's walls.
That was Thomas Merton's intention later in his life, too — to create a "hermitage outside the walls," perhaps even on the Lost Coast of Northern California. It would've been a life that maintained his relationship with his monastery without being physically enclosed within it.
There are moments when I feel as if I'm living part of the life Merton might've lived had he returned from Asia.
And I've also been learning from the Chinese mountain poets that being a mountain poet doesn't mean a quietist withdrawal, but rather that it can be an act of political resistance.
In the mountains I don't feel like I'm getting away from anything (except from some of my own obsessions). Rather I feel that I'm connecting.