A Reflection on Stillness: Its Beauty, Its Compensations and Insights


Gladiolas shared from a friend

When I swung my feet over the side of the bed this morning, I glanced at the notepad tucked on the bedside table. I keep it there to capture random thoughts generated by dreams, late-night reading or whispered night prayers. Although I have little recollection of making them, last night’s notes indicate that today, I plan to write something about stillness. Since right now is such a time of stillness and solitude this topic still holds a morning after appeal, so stillness it is. How shall I get going?
As the sun begins to nudge the night away, it’s very quiet morning here on the corner. The breeze is not yet stirring and the birds are just waking up over the creek. The dog has not cracked an eyelid yet. The wooden staircase creaks a protest in its own slumber as I creep downstairs, trying not to wake Arnie. I attempt to make only soft-slippered noises that are poetry to the stillness.
coffee dripping,
window shade rising,
eggs boiling,
dog kibble sprinkling into a ceramic bowl
tiptoe noises of the quiet morning
I wrap two hands around a favorite chunky mug, steaming and swirling with creamy hot inspiration and soft-step back up the staircase to the chilly studio to write. This still time, the blank canvas of the day before the sun begins to warm the garden is a sacred prelude to abandoning the keyboard for the rake and hoe later in the day. The solitary early morning is a precious, protected time.
Sitting down at the desk, I glance up at a ratty hand-written paper list of much-admired writers that peers down from the studio wall in encouragement. If the well goes dry, I only need to take down one of their books from the shelf and the creative log jam is loosened. I’m only looking for a keyword or sometimes a snippet of profound thought to get going. The bearded three, Emerson, Thoreau and Muir, are at the top of my nerd list for subject matter when I want to write something that is contemplative like today’s subject matter of “stillness”. So, this morning I will start with these three venerable gentlemen for inspiration. Their wisdom translates easily into our urbane day to day life and proves that great thinking is timeless.

This is a writing exercise that I often use to get started:

Read a quote from a writer that you admire and then put it in a pan, boil it down and apply it as a salve to something you are dealing with today. Ask how you can find insight by reading the thoughts, philosophy, beliefs or opinions of great thinkers. You don’t need to agree, you just need to stretch your thinking to gain insight and in the bargain some practical applications that will help you gain perspective! I’ll share with you the three quotes that I chose today. I list the quote first and then talk about how it might apply to this very day, Sunday April 5, 2020 and what might be going on in our world. If you are so inclined, I would love to hear who you are reading and gaining insight and inspiration from. How do their thoughts apply to your days? What insights into your daily life are you gleaning?  Please feel free to leave a comment.
#1 Emerson: “As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.”

Today’s Application:     Over the last few weeks, I see more clearly the absolute beauty in my women friends who have let go of make-up, slid into relaxed clothes and shared musing among a sisterhood who cannot get to the salon. You were beautiful before, but you are even more beautiful now as you reject outward appearances and embrace who you are as a person. You inspire me with your adaptability and make me laugh with how you take it all in stride. I hope your day is simply fabulous with solitude and stillness.

#2 Thoreau: If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.

Today’s Application: We are expecting a new grandbaby in a couple of weeks and this time, we will not be there. He will arrive in Massachusetts while we pray for him and his Mom to be safe and healthy from our home in Georgia. It seems that an insurmountable distance separates us at this moment. But we can only be quiet-minded over this unexpected global event that is out of anyone’s control. We are only in control of how we react to being distanced from our family at this particular time. So, we accept that the quiet time given to us right now is meant to ready us for the compensation that Thoreau suggested is there. As with all of life’s mysteries, we don’t know what that compensation is yet. We only know that it is there, waiting in the stillness and that it will welcome us all back together when the time is right.

#3 Muir: “There are always some people in the mountains who are known as “hikers.” They rush over the trail at high speed and take great delight in being the first to reach camp and in covering the greatest number of miles in the least possible time. They measure the trail in terms of speed and distance.

#3 Today’s Application: Words from Muir, the third bearded gentleman, will usher me outside into the garden. His words will remind me that today I have plenty of time to slow down and place my steps carefully. I will walk the same path ten times to carry water to newly planted seedlings, but I will do it mindfully and not step in the same footprint twice. I will vary the path to allow the tender grass sprouts between the water spout and the garden to continue to poke up through the dirt and provide cover to the hard red Georgia clay. I will cohabit with them gently so that we may both thrive. I don’t need to water fast, I need to water well. I’ll garden today with an eye to everything that might get trampled if I make the mistake that Muir cautions against and “measure the trail in terms of speed and distance.” I take time to be slow and still in the garden.
I hope we emerge from this quiet time knowing things we did not know before. If nothing else, know this: in the quiet of the morning, in the still of the night, in the solitude of being separated from you, I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt how much I love you. One inevitable tomorrow will be the last that we will share and when that day comes, I want you to know that I will continue to love you in that sacred stillness too.


One thought on “A Reflection on Stillness: Its Beauty, Its Compensations and Insights

  1. Barb, Your words paint such a visceral picture. They transport me to a different space when reading them. Thank you. Alice


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