Respite

There is something to be said for silence.

Still, quiet tranquility.

Where I find her- my quietude, is on an oft-silent side road on the western end of a snow-covered Island, just before evening turns to velvet night. There is a little inlet that leads to a river and there the water is just starting to break through the ice-covered cap that has blanketed the flow since late January. Yesterday, I found ducks paddling along in single-file formation, moving like something from a black and white film feature from the thirties. The water, moving ever-so-leisurely- I paused for a moment while on my mission (aiming for the mailbox on the right-hand side of the road, where I then turn and head back toward home) to notice.

I have to train myself to take it all in, where sometimes I am more prone to rush right on by.

Walking is a calming exercise for me. I can feel the layers from the day sliding away like a heavy cloak that needs to be shed. The tension dissipates with each step forward and each slap of rubber on pavement. I press on. Past the melting rivulets of water that form a triangular waterway down the middle of the road, past the barking dog, the whispering pines. I press on toward the growing quiet I feel now both without and within.

All is quiet.

Serenity is knowing that there is a place we can return to again and again when life gets too loud and too demanding. For there are so many voices calling, so many noises pressing in. Our hearts can’t take it all sometimes.
We see it on the news, on our social media sites, in our workplaces, in our circles. It is in our homes. Life is just too loud and busy and frantic and chaotic. Where is the still, peaceful tranquility we so crave and require?

Lately, there has been news delivered to those I love, those I care deeply about. Some news of which, when conveyed- feels as if the world is shouting in my direction, in their direction: “Hear ye, hear ye- there will be doom, and gloom and horrible things that will bury you and smother you with sadness.” Shouting voices- sharp, piercing and pointed, all with the intent to jar one from their reverie. It feels as if the noise will suffocate me- bury us all. That it will overpower us with its cloud-like cover. Stifling us until all life is snuffed out like the stub of a candle that has reached the end of its wick. We are being asphyxiated by the weight of it all- this tremendous clatter, bearing down hard on our souls.

My Grampie M. was a humble man, an unassuming, hard-working salt-of-the-earth type. Life for him was never easy- most of his days were spent with an ever-watchful eye on his son born with Down Syndrome, but life was full. To my knowledge, he lived the entirety of his eighty-nine years long life without ever raising his voice. There were changes at the end, due to the dementia, but when he was living with all his faculties and awareness, his meekness led him to live a life of quiet grace.

He used to place his work-roughened, grease-blackened hand upon my head and say with a gentle chuckle, ‘That’s a good little head.’ His calm assurance always left me feeling that all would be well. When Grampie M. knew that something was about to reach a feverish pitch- when all of hell’s bells were about to sound: he would amble out to his carpentry shop and reach for his hammer. And he would pound wood with nail after nail to drown out the sounds. He was that kind of man- he embraced the repetitive sound of steel on wood over the noise of clashing voices or tension of any sort.

Sometimes we crave the Hand of a Father on our heads, gently reassuring us of this hopeful desire, written on all our hearts no matter how hardened and weathered they might be: a desire to know that all is well. There will be peace. For there is hope in the noisy ‘here-and-now’- peace even in this messy present in which we live. And all because that Peace has come; there is a place of rest for the worn and weary. There is respite. There is reprieve. There is a place of quiet, tranquil solitude for those who yearn for a space to go where the world is hushed and the noise is muted.

“Come, all who are weary. And I will give you rest.”

There is a place I like to go when life gets too noisy. Too riotous and rowdy. It is my respite when the clamour of everyday living becomes too raucous and commotion reaches peak levels. And in that place, my weary soul finds rest.

I find my quiet in the still of the evening.

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On Solitude…

Solitude.  Not loneliness of which I speak.  Not isolation, nor seclusion. Neither separation, segregation, emptiness.  Rather.   The peaceful equilibrium without.  That quiet moment spent.   In prayer.  In supplication, meditation, reflection.   In contemplative thought.   Tranquil moments that restore the soul within.  Returning the body to its truest nature, a relaxed state of being.  Reinstating the mind to calm, serene awareness of all that life is not.   While reminding one of all that Life, in its brutiful, messy sacredness, truly is.

My life is many things, but quiet, it is surely not.  Not for lack of trying, mind you.

But just now.   Quiet.  A word fitly chosen.  Describing at least my house, if not my state of being within this tiny, framed window of time.  Calm, silent.  Still.   So quiet I can finally hear things gone unheard for quite some time.  The wind moving around the outside corners of a farmhouse, where centuries-old wood has joined to form pillars of a home.  The rustle of an artificial evergreen wreath against a frosted window pane.  The hum of the aging washing machine, churning darks into frothy white, just one floor up.  The click, click of my computer beside me, my constant companion.  The breathy whir of a furnace as it puffs heat into frigid air.

The wheezy sound in my lungs when I breathe deeply.  Reminding me again of why I so desperately need this quiet.  This moment of solitude.

I wasn’t meant to have it, a quiet moment.  Or should I say, it came unexpected.  I was rushing.  As per usual.  Meetings, deadlines, e-mails after school.  The dash home to start the pork simmering before carting Four off to the hairdressers for their quarterly trims.  The hustle back home again with One very upset about the artistic state of The Haircut.  So then.  The other parent driving that same child back again to the hairdresser to explain the dire straits of the situation; thus, the need to correct it (The Haircut) before practice tonight, before the inevitable demise when all is unveiled to friends at school tomorrow.

Serious, life-altering stuff.

The potatoes boiling over, the supper meltdowns, the clock ticking.  And then.  The tumbled rush out the door, a spewing of boots, coats, mitts, hats and bodies spilling onto the iced doorstep, then further onto the slick walkway toward the half ton.  And after it all, I am left spent.  Still feeling the need to clean up the remains of the day, field phone calls, and mop up floors before making my own trek to town after the tedious chores are completed.

Bundling up in my less than attractive winter attire, then running out to the van to allow it the minute of idle time necessary to get it going, I realize this: my husband has the van keys.  They are in his pocket, at the church.  And I am completely stranded, whilst the other members of my music group are waiting in a warm sanctuary of a little white church.  For me.  And rather than seeing this as a moment of blessing, a free space in the Game of Life, I see it as a set-back.

And I want to wring my husband’s neck.

But instead, I resist the urge.  Much to his complete relief, I might add!  And taking a deep breath, I make the necessary calls to cancel my evening plans.  After doing so, the sense of peace that washes over me I might have never known.  Because now, and all because of botched plans, I have this whole half of an hour to myself.  And it is mine.  I can spend it as I wish.  Wasting it lavishly or using it sparingly.  It is mine to spend.    The added bonus that comes with this newly acquired freedom is the quiet accompaniment that is my friend, Solitude.

To think, I might have never known her.

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul.  To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.” (Deepak Chopra)

In order to listen to the cries of one’s soul, to hear truth and know solutions, one needs to block out the noise.  Even but for the briefest of moments.  Cutting off the voices that shout to us, “come here, go there,” that call “this is all-important, this is a necessity.”  Shutting out the images, the icons, the media, the busyness.  And telling oneself that it’s okay.  To be alone.

To be quiet.

More importantly, it is sometimes the setbacks in life that bring us the most joy, the most revelation.  For all of life is meant to be.  Even the valleys.  And in our darkest, most solitary moments, even in the setbacks, we discover who we truly are.  And all we were meant to be.

And if we are not quieted, we miss hearing the still small Voice reminding us.  Why this is an absolute necessity.