Air Date: Week of December 5, 1997
Trees falling in the woods of Nova Scotia have a band of normally quiet hermits speaking out. The brothers and sisters of the Nova Nada Carmelite Hermitage in the Nova Scotia woods near Yarmouth live a very quiet life. They don’t speak from dusk till dawn, and they keep silent for at least one full day a week. They spend long periods in prayer and meditation. But lately, their solitude has been broken by the sounds of chain saws. Timber giant J.D. Irving has been clear cutting the woods around the hermitage, and the 12 monks say the noise is undermining their way of life. Laura Knoy reached Sister Sharon Doyle by phone. Sister Doyle is the spokeswoman for the Nova Nada Carmelite Hermitage, where silence is fundamental.
KNOY: The brothers and sisters of the Nova Nada Carmelite Hermitage in the Nova Scotia woods near Yarmouth live a quiet life. A very quiet life. They don't speak from dusk till dawn, and they keep silent for at least one full day a week. They spend long periods in prayer and meditation. But lately, their solitude has been broken by the sounds of chainsaws. Timber giant J.D. Irving has been clear-cutting the woods around the hermitage and the 12 monks say the noise is undermining their way of life. I reached Sister Sharon Doyle by phone. She is the spokeswoman for the Nova Nada Carmelite Hermitage, where silence is fundamental.
DOYLE: It's essential for a monastic community, especially an eremitical community such as ours, but it's also essential for every human being. It's our birthright. Out of silence great ideas erupt. Out of silence, relationships flourish. Ask any mother who longs for 10 minutes of silence a day, and it seems to be rather important for all of us.
KNOY: You've mentioned the word hermetical, or eremitical, if I'm pronouncing it right. What does that mean?
DOYLE: Well, eremitical means living alone. Each one of us monks has a separate hermitage, and we meet together at the focal point of our lives, which is the chapel. It happens to be right at the center of the property, at the top of the lake, so you imagine hermits coming out of the door at quarter of 6 in the morning and coming from various areas on a 65-acre piece of property, and heading to the chapel. We eat together twice a week. So that makes us different from another kind of order, where they would see, talk to one another daily and eat together at some point, perhaps every day.
KNOY: Sister Doyle, when did the logging start?
DOYLE: With this particular company, in 1995, although there has been logging around us for the 25 years we have been in the area.
KNOY: How has it affected your life, your daily routine?
DOYLE: For a long time our daily routine was seriously disrupted. But apart even from the noise of the logging, it's the fight against the noise and how we have had to leave our daily routine and start dealing with interviews and press and taking care of all the myriad things that come up when you start a struggle like this, that has disrupted us.
KNOY: Are you against clear-cutting in general, or just because it's disrupted your way of life?
DOYLE: In the beginning it was about having disrupted our particular way of life. But as we get more educated, as we meet environmental groups, as we read more about forests, we are starting to have some pretty serious concerns about clear- cutting. We've always, as contemplative, as mystics, had a sense, Laura, of the interconnectedness of being. ThichNat Than, who's a Buddhist monk, says we inter-are. So, my thoughts, whether someone knows them or not, have an effect on the universe. If we clear-cut in northern Maine and in the Maritimes, that can change climate levels to such an extent that someday it will change the level of the ocean, which could effect some island in the South Pacific. It's all connected, and every decision we make, we have to think in terms of the others, not just economics, productivity, more profit.
KNOY: The monastery is asking J.D. Irving to create a 2-mile no- logging buffer zone around the hermitage.
KNOY: The company has counter-offered with a 1-mile no-logging zone and limited logging within 2 miles. You've said no deal. Why not?
DOYLE: That does sound like a very significant offer, and for this company it is. We were pleased. We said no for 2 reasons. First one was that it was a unilateral publication. We had no chance to respond to it personally, to the company, before it was published. Secondly, based on our experience, Laura, of how noise travels in the woods and over a lake, and how we have been disrupted by noise further than 2 miles away, we have had to draw a line, be adamant, and say that a 2-mile limit with no activity is the bare minimum for us not to be ruined. We will still be spoiled, but anything less would ruin us.
KNOY: How do you think this will end, Sister Doyle?
DOYLE: I don't know if it will end soon. I think it's going to go on a long time, because because both sides are being adamant. I think if I know if they don't give us the land the final visual will be Nova Nada packing up, putting the land up for sale, and leaving. If we get the 2 miles, we will be grateful and sit back and see what happens in terms of how our lifestyle can go on the way it will never be the way it was, but whether or not we can survive.
KNOY: Sister Sharon Doyle is the spokeswoman for the Nova Nada Carmelite Hermitage in Nova Scotia. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
DOYLE: Thank you, Laura, it's been a pleasure.
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