May 23rd – “Back To Reality”

I drove up to the cottage for a couple of days to do some reading and writing.  I figured it was going to be quiet up here, but I never guessed how quiet.  As I drove in from the highway along a 3km winding trail deeper into the forest, I looked for signs of life at other cottages.  Every cottage I passed was still closed up.  As dusk began to deepen itself into night I wandered down to the dock to see if I could see any lights, any indications that I was not alone.  There were none.  I realized there was a good chance that I was the only human being for miles around. 

And there was silence.  A silence that was deafening.

 Someone once wrote that to even say the word silence is to destroy it.  But let me talk about it for a moment.  How do you deal with silence?  Do you like it?  Do you seek it out?  Can you sit with it?  Can you sit in it?  Or is silence an enemy to be kept at bay?  Are you at war with silence?  Do you try to make sure you are never alone?  When you are alone, do you turn on a radio or TV to chase it away? 

Perhaps silence, like anything, has its sunny side and its shadow side.  I’m writing this while sitting on the deck, and the silence of a bright and clear spring morning holds an almost inexpressible treasure.  I’m not sure I felt that way at 1am last night, when the silence seemed intent on coughing up its unique store of imaginary creatures and threats.

But that being said, I appreciate silence. I always have.  It’s why I’m here for a couple of days.  Not only to appreciate it, but to mine it for what it has to offer. 

One of my favourite quotes is from the philosopher/poet Rumi who wrote, “out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.  When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” 

That quote articulates for me the value that I have found in silence.  It is a creative space, or a “field” as Rumi puts it, that can allow one to step away from our constant need to judge, and evaluate, and just sense the wideness and fullness of life that seems too often only on the fringe of our reality.    So infrequently do we allow the mind to wander, the soul to seek, the spirit to rest, that when we do, we can be gifted with moments of true grace.  Our scriptures invite us into that same sacred space with the words, “be still, and know.”

Let me share a passage from a book entitled, “The Phantom Tollbooth”: “Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you have known the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”

Isn’t it funny, that when we go into silent places to camp or cottage we describe it as “getting away from reality”.  I always thought that we have that phrase mixed up. Surely the silence, solitude and space that we seek, is our natural reality.  The illusion, is the noisy and busy world we have created from it. 

For a couple of days I have come back to reality, and I will do my best to enjoy and appreciate the gift and the gifts of silence.