There are so many kinds of stillness, like many kinds of snow.
Listening to the wind buffet the awnings; appreciating the way the snow makes the air more illuminated (even at night). I like the scent of evaporating snow–somewhere between moist and dry — and am glad that Illinois is having a taste of what winters are like further north (though the snow is nowhere near as high). And I am aware of something vaguely uncomfortable that has nothing to do with the snowy atmosphere without, but the quality of silence I’m sensing at the moment.
I think of my brother’s family of six, of how rare silence is in their home — between two televisions on most of the time and the sounds of children’s chatter from room to room. When I visit, silence comes only when I stay up reading after everyone has gone to bed, or arise early. But there is a flow in their home, a flow of life and communion, and I am reminded — as I am when I host larger gatherings at my home — of what my life would be like if I had a large family, of the kind of joy that energizes like a current, and the satisfaction of a well-managed household.
And then I think of how when there is no one but I in my own home (though someone else is here half the week now), it is easy to listen to the sounds of the furnace, the birds, the wind, the cars going past — and feel sometimes the absence of human community, of any narrative for one’s life, of any connection to anything beyond the objects turning on and off or sitting perfectly still in the room.
It’s easy to see why some fear silence, because it can evoke a little death. In the absence of conversation, of immediate feedback from other human beings, we can start to feel as if we don’t exist. We aren’t mother, father, child, partner, lover, friend . . . we aren’t successful on the stage of anyone’s life, professionally or personally . . . we are brought back to the steady THERENESS of the world and its quite indifference to us.
There is another kind of silence in solitude, of course — the kind that awakens our sense of interconnectedness with all of creation, stirs insights in us that blow in on the breath of the Spirit, reveals that our heart walks across the landscape of God’s heart, and that God in turn dwells in all the peopled and unpeopled landscapes of our lives.
But I suspect we often come to know the radiant sort of silence when we’ve stayed put for a time with the impersonalizing, absent sort of silence.
Is this your experience?
Some love the snow and some fear it. Some are dazzled by the play of light on it, or its many textures–dry, wet, fluffy, wispy, hard, clumpy. Some resent and some delight in the exercise of shoveling it. Some seem to want only green warm days. I have never understood this, for hot days deplete me and I prefer a crisper cool day. But even if I can’t fathom why more people don’t relish the heady challenges of snow, I can understand why human beings might skirt around the challenges of silence.