Monday, March 23, 2009

Perfect Stillness

I couldn't resist including this today, from Finding Beauty In A Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams, an environmentalist committed to showing human's impact on the land:

"I watched prairie dogs every day rise before the sun, stand with their paws pressed together facing the rising sun in total stillness for up to 30 minutes. And then I watched them at the end of the day take that same gesture 30 minutes before the sun goes down they would press their palms together in perfect stillness. I don't mean to anthropomorphize, but when you look at a creature that has survived over the millennium begin and end each day in that kind of stance, it causes one to think about one's own life and speed and rapidity in which we live."

And this picture reminded me of this poem by Pablo Neruda:

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much
It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.
The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.
What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.
If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.
Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

-from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon
I guess these thoughts on stillness struck me today because I am still following a delicate, fragile inner strand that is telling me how to regain and maintain balance in my life. I know stillness is part of the process. Conversely (no pun intended), I also just started an intentional walking practice this morning. And while walking and stillness might sound like opposites, I think my walks help focus the inner stillness that feeds my creative spirit.

I've been thinking about doing this for years... and especially since becoming unemployed. Get up in the morning, take the kids to school, and go for a walk with the intention of finding and following my path. The operative word in that statement is "thinking". But this weekend, I read a post by Patti Digh on her 37 Days blog (check it out; it's wonderful! And if you haven't read/practiced the book, please do!). Patti, who lives in Asheville, has made a commitment to running a half-marathon in May in Cincinnatti. She is training for it with trepidation. A reader wrote her a beautiful message of encouragement. I was so inspired by Patti's courage to follow through on what she fears that I have made a commitment of support for her by intentionally walking every day. Literally "Walking the Talk".

I used to be a strong walker. I loved to walk and would do it just for the heck of it. I remember walking with someone decades ago who commented on what a good, strong walker I was (while I was just walking!). Now my steps are heavier and slower, my stride shorter and stiffer. I need to become more flexible and strong physically so that I can do the same mentally and emotionally, and walking is just the ticket. So while I can't physically cheer Patti on at the race and congratulate her as she crosses the finish line, I can add my energy and commitment to hers -- while increasing my own and finding my way at the same time. Win-win!

So today I went for a walk at Connemara, Carl Sandburg's home which is only a few miles from our own. Connemara is a National Historic Site and is beautifully and lovingly maintained. There is a small lake below the house and a trail circling it surrounded by trees and rhododendron thickets and birds and quiet, peaceful joy. It's no wonder Carl and his wife Lillian decided to settle there; it was the perfect spot for them and their family: enough space for him to "dirty paper" (as he called it) and her to raise her award-winning goats. Make a visit, take a walk and it is clear why a writer could be so prolific there.
Today, while the crows were cawing in the early morning chill, I walked around the lake. As the tree tops captured the sun, the mosses caught my eye and my imagination. I want to find some green velvet and wash it in the washing machine and see if it comes out resembling moss so I can use it on a journal or a book or a pendant or something.
I imagined being a wood sprite and how I would set up home deep in the forest. I would sleep on moss in a bark home with cicada wing windows on a foundation of an old oak stump. Spider silk would surround my soft green bed made of fragrant cedar wood and comforted with down-filled ginko pillows and spring green leaf quilts. A laughing stream would sing to me all day, and I would serve tea in acorn caps in the fall and winter and honeysuckle blossoms in the spring and summer. Birds would be regular, curious visitors. I would be friends with all the animals. There would be no fear in the forest, only wisdom, sharing, and laughter.

(These pictures are not from Connemara, although they share green. They are from St. Nectan's Glen in Cornwall, England. I took them this summer. But that's another story for another day.)

I'm looking forward to the visions tomorrow's walk will open for me! Thanks to Carl and Lillian and Patti for the inspiration.

I hope you find your joy-filled visions today.