My life does not have a lot of silence, stillness, or solitude despite the fact that these are three things that I love very much. I work with an energetic group of over-achieving feminists and the office is always hectic with the fight against injustice and the loud and vocal humor it takes to cut the heaviness of our work. I seldom have time alone in my house and few hours where there isn't some boy, little or big, sidled up against me or jumping, wrestling, or talking at top volume about some VERY IMPORTANT game or movie reference. If I am to have those important "s words" in my life, I have to actively seek them out and make them a priority. Clearly I haven't been doing enough of that lately because during the moments I have taken I find I have a bumpy transition from the hum that is emitted from the machine that is my life. It reminds me of the days when I lived in New York City and would occasionally visit my former in-laws on their rural Wisconsin farm land. It would take days for my ears to adjust to silence and for my body to relax from constant movement.
This morning, I went into the silence. It started with a drive to Como Lake with the idea that I'd get a little exercise by walking the path around the lake. I brought my iPod, but when I got there, on this clear cool late summer morning, I decided that I needed to tune in with all my senses to what was going on around me. After the 1.6 mile walk, I needed a little more, so I headed over the the Harriet Alexander Nature Center. I did something I almost never do on the drive over. I turned off the radio and opened the windows. I listened to the sounds of my car, the pavement, the light wind outside. I was the only person there when I got to Harriet Alexander. This was a contrast to Como, where the sounds of the conversations of my fellow walkers and the sounds of the traffic around the lake competed with the sounds of nature. I hiked around a little bit, listening to my footsteps, snapping twigs, rustling animals, and calling birds. I went into the marsh, and at one point, sat down on the board walk and let the whole experience of being there in that moment wash over me. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin as well as the coolness of the air. I heard the frogs, the crickets, the birds, and, more off in the distance, the traffic. I looked at the vibrant lime green of the algae and the bright purple of the fireweed. For just that moment, I was aware of the singularity of my life, of my specific place in the web, of silence and stillness and solitude and how I need those things as much as any other nourishment.
So I'm making a commitment to give myself the gift of quiet at least once a week (more if I can get it). I'm committing to find time to be alone and still and to fully inhabit those moments. I'm hoping that the moments will begin to radiate outward into the rest of my life so that I can retain equanimity wherever I am and whatever I am doing.