May Sarton

May Sarton
May Sarton

There once was an inquisitive, thoughtful girl named May. She was born in Belgium, about 100 years ago. She lived there only a few years until the German invasion in 1914. Fleeing Europe, May Sarton and her family came to live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where May’s father became a professor.

When she was ten, May’s friend Barbara brought her to a Unitarian church. She liked the minister very much. She liked listening to his sermons. One day she heard him say something that would stay with her for the rest of her life: “Go into the inner chamber of your soul—and shut the door.” These words would be with her always.

As May grew older, her love of poetry and writing grew. She also loved acting in the theater. Once her poetry was known, she began to tour the country doing poetry readings and lectures all around the country. She traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she met and fell in love with a woman named Judith.

Judith and May loved one another. With Judith, May felt for the first time what it meant to be home with someone. But May also felt a need to be by herself, too. After the death of her parents she went to be alone to contemplate and write in a house in New Hampshire. And this is why we are talking about her now.

It was there in the solitude of that house that she could do what the Unitarian minister so long ago told her to do. She could go into the inner chamber of her soul. And go she did. Her book, Journal of Solitude, which she wrote there begins, “I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my ‘real’ life again at last.…Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone.”

Alone, she was free to look deeply into her life. She explored inside herself. She paid close attention to what she was thinking and feeling. Her quiet noticing brought her to joyful understanding—revelations about herself, her life, and life itself.

May wrote, “If one looks long enough at almost anything, looks with absolute attention at a flower, a stone, the bark of a tree, grass, snow, a cloud, something like revelation takes place.” It is these words, in which she directs us to look with absolute attention, that we focus on today. As we look deeply at anything in nature, any part of life, we can see within it a miracle unfolding or the whisper of a miracle already unfolded.

Like May Sarton, by paying close attention, we may find miracles. They are all around us, waiting to be revealed. Will we draw the miracles we see? Write about them, like May Sarton, perhaps to share with others? It may be enough simply to know miracles. Let them feed our awe and wonder at the universe and our place in it.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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