It had been an emotionally chaotic week.
Weeks after her funeral, a belated memorial service was scheduled at my Granny Goo’s assisted living residence. I had already been having grief nightmares about her death, and anticipation of the service had me strung tight as a bowstring.
“No one told me that grief felt so like fear.” ~ C.S. Lewis
I had come to a point where I realized that I was hesitant to enter into prayer, into stillness. I knew that sitting with grief was a new experience for me, and I was terrified. I was scared that I would become lost in billowing waves of sadness.
But being more scared to deliver my heart into the hands of suffocation and smallness, I had begun again to pray. To do yoga. To pursue stillness, whatever I might find there. And like weeks before, I said my prayers, did my yoga. Monkey mind, all week long: flipping, turning, teasing, shrieking, panting, chattering.
It was not from lack of seeking peace that I did not find it.
The memorial came and went. Seeing family, asking how they were doing, trying to find words of tribute worthy to say. Buckets of tears.
Two days later, I was on the road out of town. October afternoon, the best kind. Invigoratingly cool air, translucent cerulean sky.
I had gone to some friends’ house to watch over their mammals as they traveled to enjoy Prairie Home Companion live. They live in a century old bungalow with a magnificent wrap-around porch, softly pillowed porch swing at the ready.
Getting out of town, getting out of your own space, provides an opportunity to free yourself. Untethered by home obligations, a mind and heart can wander where it needs to go. And I had planned. I thought I knew where I needed to go.
It was an intentional reread: With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen. It is a book to that has much to say about relinquishing, about stillness. I had intended to go to the porch swing and read the entire photo essay, had looked forward to it. I left my media screens and my music behind. I forgot the failed prayers and the yoga. I stepped out onto the porch with the book.
I opened and read: “Silence is full of noise. The wind murmuring, the leaves rustling, the birds flapping their wings, the waves washing ashore. And even if these noises cannot be heard, there is still the breathing of a quiet man, the motion of his hand over his skin, the swallowing of his throat, and the soft patter of footfalls. But we have become deaf to the thundering silence. It seems that it can’t be heard anymore without the sound of amplifiers.”
I read on. Six, seven, eight more pages. Nine.
Nestled into the pillowy porch swing, I heard a still, small voice. The tree was whispering. A maple tree that I had paid no mind to inserted itself into the conversation. It seemed louder and louder, and I could read no more.
The fear and sadness were over. The praying and yoga were gone. The reading on silence had dissolved. And I was left with the tree.
The breeze hushed me and murmured. I was held in the swaying of the swing and the limbs.
And it no longer mattered, nothing did. Whether my bravery would conquer my fear. Whether my mourning would be comforted. Whether life was coming together or falling apart. Because the pursuing of a thing is not the thing itself. All that mattered was the sound of breeze through leaves. Silence and stillness had come.
As the brilliant October afternoon softened toward darkness, I gathered my blanket around myself; stepping into an evening of thankfulness and peace.
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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson / Ed: Bryonie Wise