Friday, May 11, 2012

Quiet, Please


This morning, instead of reading the newspaper and listening to the radio the way I usually do, I ate my eggs while reading Gladys Taber's The Book of Stillmeadow. And when I took my walk, instead of making to-do lists and planning out the day's errands, I did my best to pay attention to the birds and the flowers and the trees, to actually notice them instead of wandering past them lost in my own mental chatter. 

My mind has been too noisy lately. My state had its primary this week, and smack dab in the middle of it was a controversial amendment that caused a lot of hateful talk on both sides. We've also got a famous politician on trial right now, and every morning the paper carries all the sordid, ugly and awful details. Really, it's just too much. 

So I'm trying to be very quiet. It has occurred to me recently that I am welcome to disconnect. If I don't listen to the news or read the paper or check online, I might be uninformed, but my head's a better place to be. And why do I need to be informed that people hate each other? That powerful, narcissistic people believe themselves above the law? That no one is all that interested in peace?
Taking my walk this morning, I was reminded of a Wendell Berry poem called "How to Be a Poet," in which he writes, "There are no unsacred places;/there are only sacred places/and desecrated places."  Looking at the trees and the flowers, listening to the birds, feeling the cool air against my face, I knew I was in a sacred place, that the whole world is infused with God except where we've fouled it with our waste and our hate and our ugliness.

A quiet mind. A mind that can read for long stretches of time without being distracted, that can follow a thought through to its conclusion, that can pay attention to what's right in front of it. My mind's not there yet, but I'm working on it. I am practicing being as quiet as I can.

How to Be a Poet
by Wendell Berry

Make a place to sit down.   
Sit down. Be quiet.   
You must depend upon   
affection, reading, knowledge,   
skill—more of each   
than you have—inspiration,   
work, growing older, patience,   
for patience joins time   
to eternity. Any readers   
who like your poems,   
doubt their judgment.   


Breathe with unconditional breath   
the unconditioned air.   
Shun electric wire.   
Communicate slowly. Live   
a three-dimensioned life;   
stay away from screens.   
Stay away from anything   
that obscures the place it is in.   
There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.   


Accept what comes from silence.   
Make the best you can of it.   
Of the little words that come   
out of the silence, like prayers   
prayed back to the one who prays,   
make a poem that does not disturb   
the silence from which it came.

Source: Poetry (January 2001).


wayside wanderer said...

Oh yes, please world, do be quiet if you can't find something nice to say. I really like the poem, Frances.

Oh coconut oil does not smell of coconut at all. I was disappointed by that fact, but it might encourage you to try it. :D

Oh and another thing. We are reading A Common Reader for book club because of you! Exciting, I know. haha Do you have any tips on what was the most interesting thing your group liked discussing about the book? I am loving all the funny English phrases and want to make a list of them. I have no idea what they mean but I want to use them on my family just to see what sorts of reactions I will get.

Wishing you peace and quiet today...

Gumbo Lily said...

Oh my, that poem. It's like a prayer to be prayed. My quiet times out walking are treasured times, sacred, as you say. This post is altogether lovely. Thank you, Frances.


P.S. I love GT and Stillmeadow. It's time I take it out and read May.

Tracy said...

I often end up skipping the news and we never see a newspaper so there days and days where I am left completely uninformed. What's that saying...."what you don't know won't hurt you". In this case I think it's true.

Was it you who posted about that article to do with looking after introverts. I think us introverts crave quiet in our worlds in ways extroverts can't understand.

Pom Pom said...

I like Wendell Berry's poem and I'll take my portion of that wisdom today. Maybe that's why I don't WANT to go to Jazzercise this morning and listen to the amped up music as I try to follow the teacher. I don't want her to smile and shout out group questions like, "What are you all going to do today? Go shopping?" Ugh. But my body needs to move and stretch and lift weights to maintain the gift of strength, so I'll go. My mind will be by the creek, listening to the noisy spring birds, smelling the wet earth. We've had welcome rains.
I bought a WB book of poetry last year about this time and I am going downstairs to find it right now.
Thank you for a letter, Frances. You are so kind. I savored it and I'm putting it in my Bible so I shall read it again and again. I'm flattered that the sweet bookmark reminded you of me. I love that little drawing.
Yes, to the darling sixth grade again. Oh, how I love their sweetness. I think eleven is a near perfect age.
Happy Mother's Day to you, good mama.

Danielle said...

Ssshhhh. Mom needs to BE.

Happy Mother's Day!

GretchenJoanna said...

Thank you for a good word. I'm happy for you that you have found the quiet.

magsmcc said...

Thank you. (Whispered)