It is so easy to forget, even in a small town like Salies where things seldom happen (as if anything ever happened other than a thought), that the body and soul have a need of silence and stillness. The internet, today’s meal, a friend walking by, cars passing on the road, the dog with her ball, a phone call, a trip to the shop, a walk in the park all add sounds to our day and activities that take us out and away from the inner silence. And then there is the narrative, the constant telling of the “story” of life that runs incessantly through our minds (and dictates this blog) commenting on the beauty of a flower, the necessity of watering the plants, the time to take the garbage down, the plan for lunch, the upcoming trip… all things that are neither happening nor will necessarily happen but which occupy the inner space that hungers for silence.
And as the silence dwindles, so does the expanse of life, inner life. We become humbugs, dung beetles constantly pushing matter to and fro, placing, moving, organizing, lifting, dropping, pushing, pulling, accommodating everything in the constant dance of this dream world filled with colors and shapes and sounds and smells and tastes and feels. Busy. We are busy all the time, and then the suddenly quiet moment, the one that would invite us to contemplation, becomes “nothing-to-do”: I have nothing to do today. And today, Saturday the 18th of June is suddenly one of those days where I have nothing to do and I remember silence and stillness.
I notice: immediately the mind gets busy: I must study French; it is time to feed the dog; where will I go for lunch? The stomach begins to interrupt with signs of hunger, itches appear on my hands and arms, I get a feeling of antsy-ness. I just notice the impulse to get out of the chair and walk to the kitchen, perhaps eat a nut, maybe a drink of water. I just notice and remain seated. I observe how much I have grown accustomed to “puttering” around, doing small nothings. I wonder if my life itself has become small. It was my decision to give up workshops, yes. Perhaps it could be said that I retired, yet I had only actually worked for pay during a period of approximately eight years, strangely enough from the age of 60 to 68 when I decided to move to Salies. So after only eight years of work I retired? Well no, actually I had retired previously, at the age of 50 after thirty years of marriage. No one else calls it that, they call it divorce but I called it “retirement” after thirty years of hard work.
Now that is interesting. One might observe how I have often referred to my divorce as “retirement after 30 years of forced labor” and then go on to say I worked for “pay” for eight years and then stopped doing that. I cannot claim I was not paid for my 30 years of marriage for I had everything I needed taken care of and paid for. It is true that I worked, sometimes very long hours as all mothers and housekeepers know, and often with no respite on weekends or so-called vacations. Therein the old saying that “a woman’s work is never done”. Yet there was never the feeling of actually “working”. If asked what I did, I would promptly reply “nothing, I’m a housewife”. But of course, as anyone who has ever been a housewife and mother knows, we are far from doing nothing, and usually are doing everything in a schedule that is so fragmented by the needs of others that to speak of time for one’s self is invoking the almost impossible. There was definitely little time for silence and stillness in those days.
Today it crops in around me and finally I settle, gazing out the window at the wind that bends the trees and pushes the clouds and the rain from place to place allowing an occasional stream of sunlight to pierce through. It is going to be a day for silence, perhaps for a long walk alone as I push my weak ankle to gain strength for the Camino. Something inside rejoices; something inside bursts into soundless song as I discipline my mind to silence. The space grows, I become aware….
Ha! No more than ten minutes and I am in the kitchen, bustling around with the dog’s food, deciding that I must go out and catch a few rays of the sun that has just burst through, talking to the nascent Ming aralias that I transplanted into individual bonsai dishes yesterday, admiring the salmon colored petunias now adorning my spring-pot-garden, remembering that in the weight of silence I have completely forgotten to take my morning pills, making plans to rush to the market and then forgetting completely what it was I was going to buy, throwing the ball for Salomé, noting that the car will have to be filled with gasoline today because Carrefour puts the price down on Saturdays… life is back, not to be held at bay for long by the silence that enfolds it but is seldom heard.
2 thoughts on “SILENCE”
Some years back- 15-20 maybe- my wife and kids were gone to Camp Grandma South, I implied to everyone that I would be absent. And so I began an experiment in silence that lasted 5 days where I did not answer the phone, nor go out to anywhere I needed to speak. I took a time limited vow of silence. I kept the radio and TV mostly off, and it was before the INTERNET came along. I was interested in the vows of silence of the contemplative monastics. What that experience was like.
By the 4th day it became delicious and my mind slowed down, better able to observe my thoughts. I remember a clarity developing that changed my understanding of mind.
By the 5th day, when they arrived home and I had to begin speaking again I found the first word making difficult; as if that part of my brain had stopped working and had to be re primed and rebooted.
I have often contemplated that experience. You brought that back to me. Thank you.
Off to 7 AM Saturday coffee with friends, and to our Farmers market and taking my Dad out for lunch.
I also had a memory that went back to my high school years in a boarding school in Maryland. The building stood one mile away from country roads on the front and back, amidst woods, a lake,and a winding stream. I would spend short vacations alone and used to go out for walks inthe woods and sit in a log or rock and listen to the silence. It made me happy to evoke that memory and realize I keep doing that sometimes only now, is the sea that keeps me company with its ever changing music.