Silence

Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world, and there are kinds and grades of each. There is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy; the sober silence that goes with a solemn animal face; the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul, whence emerge new thoughts; the alive silence of alert perception, ready to say, “This… this…”; the musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity; the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear; the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud and subvocal speech but sullen to say it; baffled silence; the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos. ~ Paul Goodman: novelist, poet, playwright, and psychiatrist

Be still. A daily practice of silence bears gifts — a heightened sensitivity to beauty, deep inner peace, and a profound feeling of connectedness to all living things. ~ Cheryl Richardson

Let silence take you to the core of life. ~ Rumi

I suggest that just once in a while, you make a conscious decision to keep yourself to yourself. ~ Danielle LaPorte

Natalie Goldberg once wrote that while she was in the middle of writing a novel, she carried the characters around with her, wondering what they’d say or think or do in all sorts of situations she’d find herself in.

Writing for my blog affects me like that. After days and weeks of posting, I start experiencing the world through the filter of what would make a post you might enjoy; what might be an uplifting photo, a moving song, an inspiring poem. Then slowly, imperceptably, I start to feel like it’s a channel I can’t switch off. I’ll be driving along and instead of enjoying the moment, there’s a flash of frustration as I wish I had a notebook or a phone or a camera. I start to feel like I’m carrying a community around in my heart, in my head. Communing even when I’m not at my laptop, logged in.

Sometimes, channeling, distilling and filtering the world stops me from simply being.

That’s one of the reasons I take frequent and often abrupt breaks from my blog, even though I love it; I need to reconnect with the real world around me and rediscover the silence that feeds my creativity like an underground pool.

Sometimes, it’s just exhaustion after a tough time being a sandwich generation mum and daughter.

But this time? During our wonderful, rejuvenating family holiday in Greece, we were heartbroken to learn that the referendum result meant the UK would be leaving the European Union, something most Scots would rather not do.

The day after we got home, a beloved friend told me she’d been diagnosed with cancer. So many phonecalls like those in the last few years.

Shock and grief always make my husband and I recalibrate, determined to create, to enjoy loved ones, details and moments. Last summer we threw ourselves into creating a new patio and building a cheap but pretty summer shed, a new perspective in the garden to enjoy the birds, the plants and views of nearby hills.

One of the blackbirds from a family who was born on our bathroom window ledge had become so tame, he’d tap on the kitchen window for food, or sit beside us and clear the scraps from our plates. My dad, 92 now, was absolutely mesmerised and started to sit in the garden casually eating strawberries, just in case…

The blackbird kept my son and me company while we dug out turf; his wee friend, a scrawny robin, stopped us working as he ate worms next to our spades.

We were inspired; my son, home from university, worked alongside me in disbelieving silence, stopping every five minutes just to enjoy the birds’ antics.

Every evening and weekend, I coped with my friend’s news by working on this new garden. I looked forward to showing you the before and after photos. My husband dug up old bushes and laid slabs, and working wordlessly side by side, we pruned, we painted fences and the grand finale was removing Leylandii trees that had become overgrown and hideous.

I clung to the daily presence of those birds like a talisman.

A few days after I took these photos to share with you, the robin and the blackbird disappeared. Distraught, I realised that by tidying up the garden, we’d destroyed their safe, messy, overgrown, cat and sparrowhawk deterring habitat.

I logged off, put away my gardening gloves and chose silence.

November brought the wintery news of Trump’s election, stunning millions of people into head shaking disbelief. My husband and I both got ill.

I lost faith, lost friends and Christmas came and went. I thought of you and almost shared some old year new year thoughts by candlelight and mulled wine but couldn’t summon the strength.

Last week there was a whisper of fresh warmth in the air and the days seemed longer.

The snow from yesterday’s storm is melting, and in every room, bright jugs of shop bought rainbow tulips have got me wondering whether the bulbs I scattered and planted last year will bloom.

And here I am again, spring cleaning my online home and listening for blackbirds.

8 thoughts on “Silence

  1. Hi Janice – silence is within me mostly … but living alone I bring things in (and not having close family) … particularly relative to blogging – it’s difficult to get off the idea-for-a-post brain mode … even going to film society films, talks, going out … blog life clicks in – I need to address it – and will in the coming year or earlier I hope.

    It’s good to see you though… but tidying doesn’t necessarily help the wildlife … we thank goodness haven’t had really cold or wet weather down here … but I am ready for Spring … aren’t those tulips lovely …

    Seeing the greening, the blossoms and bulbs come out and up … nature is doing her trick of bringing us new thoughts and thus renewal. How lovely to read of your father and the little robin … leylandii trees are awful aren’t they … but the dense foliage gives protection … sad but true – I think your feathered friends will return …

    Take care and enjoy the Spring a-coming … cheers Hilary
    Hilary Melton-Butcher recently posted…Theme Reveal … Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …My Profile

    • Hi Hilary,
      It’s snowing here today, so I’ve been making sure that any birds that do visit are well looked after. I’m sure once I get back into my messy, lazy approach to gardening that a new blackbird will adopt us… watch this space!

      I for one am glad that your eclectic, life-loving brain finds so much to share with the world, that it thinks of us all when you’re out and about. You know why you blog; you and your readers all benefit from the friendships and connections you provide, and your blogposts are always intriguing and educational. It’s a gift, knowing why you do what you do, and the feedback you get in your comments lets you know you’re getting it right. I lost my way when the newsletter I wrote my column for became a blog. When it was just a newsletter with regular features, I felt I had all month just to enjoy living, learning and being, to let it all flit in and out and overflow, knowing that I’d have more than enough column pieces to send the editor as publishing time came round. I’ve never really managed to sustain a sensible, balanced blogging pace – my archives are a dead giveaway 😉 – and my long absences have been the final nail.

  2. My heart goes out to you! I know exactly how vital our relationships are with our animal friends. People think I’m half cracked because my place is such a jungle but I keep it like that for the birds! These sensitivities like missing the birds really impact on us. But Spring is here and there WILL be new life. I’m glad you are now in my blogging world Janice!

    • Hi, Catherine,
      Did you notice the blackbird was drawn to my son’s Guinness glass? 😉 Birds and messy gardens have always featured strongly in anything I’ve written; there’s so much there to learn as well as enjoy.

      Your site inspires me; like you – and to be honest, most of the folk who comment in these boxes – I’ve always been a noticer and I’ve always written about details, the universals and the life in them, but your steady, sustained stream of photos and insights reminds me that I have to get off my backside and actually get out there and commune with nature again, whether it’s close to home or somewhere further afield, whether I’m taking photos for myself or to share.

      I could happily sit in a box all day with a pen and paper or a laptop when I’m in the zone writing; when I brave Twitter, I frequently get sucked in and lost, awe inspired by the glorious glimpses of the world to be found there; technology-taming makes me frazzled but determined and focused so I spend HOURS fixing stuff. But nothing beats real life. Getting out into the tiniest teaming bit of garden is an instant perspective changer; it stops introspection turning into analysis paralysis and self obsession, stops my inner landscape becoming a prison.

      Thank you for visiting – I keep blogging because although I don’t have many commenters and visitors these days, those who do visit are a blessing, special folk, sent by the universe for a reason.

  3. I am intimately acquainted with that deep and overwhelming desire for silence and I don’t ignore it. A regular sabbatical from whatever stirs the desire, always, always leaves me refreshed, revitalized and recalibrated.

    I have no experience with winter but I too felt/feel the icy chill of the Donald Trump presidency and the issues that seem to arise almost every day.

    However, God is good and whatever He ordains will always abound to His glory and our good. Naturally we don’t/won’t understand the reasons or see the future. We are simply called to be prayerful and hopeful and to trust that God has it all in His hands.

    • Hi Cheryl,
      Good to see you!

      refreshed, revitalized and recalibrated

      That’s so often how I feel when I come back to the blog after a break from online hyperconnection. As you say, everything happens for a reason, whether we ever get to figure it out or not. Whatever our beliefs, I know of few people who underestimate the power of learning to let go of our notion that we can control everything that impacts our lives. We can only control what we choose to think about what’s happening to us and we can choose to stay as open, childlike, unjudgemental and grateful as possible on any given day. Sometimes the gift of silent self care is all I need to get my sense of perspective back.

      I’ve learned that my blogging world shrinks every time I walk away – which is totally understandable – but until the day I walk away from blogging for ever, I continue to believe that somewhere, somehow, a word or two is landing somewhere it’s meant to and reaching someone who needs to feel they’re not alone on their own journey. A quiet wee voice, deep inside me has been telling me that for years. I still choose to believe it.

      • And I am glad you listen to that voice because each post (whether it comes close after or long after the previous one) always speaks to me. So until next time, be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself to regular doses of silences and don’t fight the need for a mega dose when necessary.
        Cheryl Wright recently posted…And onward into 2017My Profile

  4. I’m so sorry to hear that your resident blackbird and robin disappeared for a while after you cleared the garden Janice. Hopefully they have now returned. We had a similar experience a few years ago, when we dismantled a pile of old timber and discovered it had been home to two hedgehogs.

    I find it interesting how you describe “carrying a community around in my heart, in my head” – I’m the complete opposite, off in my own little world – and I have to remember to post on my blog about what I’ve been doing!
    Julia Barnickle recently posted…The Queen’s Barge Gloriana at Kingston Regatta, July 2017My Profile

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