I want to thank you for your inspiring article about Sister Pauline of La Casa de Maria.

Because of her unexpected flashes of brilliance, I often think of her as a pivot word. In Japanese poetics these special terms go by the name kake kotoba. An English-friendly example is matsu (pines), as in

wind of autumn pines
upon the mountainside
as day declines

For a moment awareness wavers suspended between the emotion (pines) and the tree. Such instants of non-thought are as pure and luminous as snow. And Sister Pauline, who always arrived at work steeped in silence, was overflowing with them. Like wind blowing off pine branches, they erupted suddenly: in her humor, her compassion, and what we often called back in a distant era, her “vibe.”

Long before I became a host at La Casa de Maria, I was a guest. And in Sr. Pauline I found the embodiment of Rumi’s expression that “being human is a guest house.” I was a kind of challenging guest: always signing up for retreats too late, and in love with a special room near the swimming pool where the coos of mourning doves, welling up in the silence, would pierce my heart with their sweetness. No matter how late I arrived, Sr. Pauline would be there to greet me with glee, and then she would hand over the key to that room, which somehow she had known to reserve.

After becoming a host, when I myself faced with challenging guests, Sr. Pauline would advise, like Rumi, that each guest serves us a guide from beyond and has something to teach. As did Sister Pauline with her unassuming presence.

Kake kotoba are small moments in a genre of small poems. But each of these mini poesies allows the existence of the Central Poem, the poem at the Center of things, to be known. They — to paraphrase Wallace Stevens — captivate the being, widen — and were there.


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