Perhaps it’s an aftermath of stress over Irene. Perhaps that’s why my head aches today, why I’m weary and too ready to growl. There are too many irons heating in the fire, too many things that need doing, , and I don’t want to do any of them. It’s one of those low-energy, low-motivation days when I want to burrow my head under the covers and hide.
So I plan an escape. Announcing that I am going upstairs to work, I carry a cup of tea up to my work room. But instead of writing or quilting, I stretch out on the sofa that faces the window and watch the trees.
From this vantage point I can see only the middle parts of the tall Carolina pines and the sweet gums that grow in our back yard. I can‘t hear the wind, either, but a brisk breeze is causing the giants to dip and sway. How beautiful, I think. The trees are dancing to silence.
Stately pines move slow,
Shake their branches and bow down
To warm wind, passing.
Dip and sway, bow and lift— watching this green minuet is really quite soothing. With no need to do anything or even to think, I open myself to the music of silence. It pours into the room like cool water, trickles down into my mind and eddies into each vein and muscle and sinew until my body is brim full of silence.
It makes me wonder: how often in any life does real silence exist? No background hum of conversation or traffic or music, no weather station bleep or radio announcement, no buzz of insect or cricket or barking dog… just silence?
Not too often. And to take that thought one step further— when is there silence in the mind? Even while I sip tea and watch the pines, thoughts gather, coalesce and form others. The brain is on active duty until sleep comes, and though the conscious mind goes still while sleeping, busy dreams work out loose ends in story plots or revolve around anxieties that have not been sorted during waking hours.
Moments of true silence are rare during a busy workday, perhaps that is why I prize them so much. Of Monet’s many beautiful paintings, the ones that resonate most with me are those in which he has captured a moment of stillness: a snow scene, a tranquil drift of water lilies. The tender first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata evokes motionless tranquility. Frost’s famous poem about two paths diverging in snowy woods conjures up the silent fall of snow.
Wind blows from the north
Stirring lacy whorls of snow…
Still winter morning.
Now here I lie on the couch and feel my headache ebb as I watch the soundless dance of the trees. Their movements are like moonlight and dappled shade, like the hush just before dawn, like everything beautiful and also like nothing at all—the nashi of Zen. Though it’s true that I need action and interaction in my life, there is also a need to soothe the senses and let the mind rest. Only then can I pay real attention to the ‘small, still voice’ that nourishes creative or constructive thought.
I’m feeling incredibly peaceful, now, but already sounds are beginning to intrude. The phone is ringing. A car door bangs shut; a neighbor’s dog barks. Quiet gives way to wry realization that I have to re-enter the noisy world.
So, upward and onward! But before leaving the room I look over my shoulder. Outside the window trees are still dancing to the music of silence.