Monday, January 17, 2022

Silence and Reflection

2021 has ended. The pandemic has not. The group reading to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PoetryBridge at C&P Coffeehouse originally scheduled in 2020 and cancelled because of COVID, rescheduled and cancelled again in 2021, was on my calendar for January 12, 2022. Then Omicron surfaced and the 12th anniversary was also cancelled.

These are the times we are living. Times demanding difficult decisions and flexibility. While we never know what will come next in life, the current reality is unique in that it is a shared event with no clear parameters. Risk-tolerance varies from person to person as does the need to return to a sense of normalcy. But what will the new normal look like?

So, what to do? I continue to read and write, walk and cycle. I juggle my need for solitude and creativity with the joy and exhaustion of caring for an active nineteen-month-old grandson. A little boy who stands before a large houseplant, the heavy iron fireplace screen, a stack of Grandma’s books, hand extended, eyes twinkling, waiting for me to say “No!” before reaching for the object he knows he is not to touch. I’m learning to silently remove him from temptation. When he grabs my hair, I swallow my screech – he loves loud noises! – unravel my hair from his small fingers and walk away.

I’ve been thinking about solitude as I read May Sarton. Perhaps the need for solitude grows as we get older. Or maybe it’s self-awareness that grows with age. Solitude is a choice which should not be confused with isolation or loneliness. In Journal of a Solitude, Sarton writes “I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse [than the challenge of maintaining balance in solitude.] I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces.” I understand this. I share these feelings.

My daughter had a wonderful primary school teacher who established a regular practice of “Silence and Reflection.” He usually took the children outdoors. Journals in hand, they each chose a place to sit at a distance from one another to write or draw or daydream. And while there was no true solitude, there was silence. For my girl, this was at times boring but always settling. Perhaps I need, perhaps we all need, time each day for silence and reflection in our overly loud, overly screen-dominated, overly stressed world.