Ah, sweet stillness... it's an old word dating from before 900CE, and it comes to us through the Middle English stilnesse and the Old English stilnes, both describing a state in which one is quiet, peaceful, balanced and motionless.
It's difficult not to think about stillness at a time when our wild cousins are either migrating south and away from the coming winter, or falling asleep until springtime rolls around again. Birds like geese, loons and the great herons fly south; bears, frogs, hedgerows and old trees all hibernate and dream their way through the long white season.
Implicit in the word stillness are notions of tranquility, rest, quiet and freedom from turmoil and commotion, community and connection, a gentle inclusive flowing that takes in our own befuddled human selves and the whole vast glorious turning cosmos around us.
In "The Zen of Creativity", John Daido Loori writes that every creature on the face of the earth seems to know how to be quiet and still, but that humans are constantly on the go and seem to have lost the ability to "be quiet, to simply be present in the stillness that is the basis of our existence."
The mundane world is one (by and large) of noise, haste, restless acquisition and thoughtlessness, and we need quiet and rest in season. We need whatever real stillness we can find if we are to complete this earthly journey, well and mindfully and fruitfully.
This place is really all about stillness. In my early morning wanderings and wonderings with Spencer and camera, these unstructured verbal meanderings at sunrise and bad photos are my fumbling efforts to be truly still and present in the moment, connected and part of the world I am standing in. I am already there if I only had the wits to realize it, but being a somewhat forgetful old hen, I need all the reminders I can rest my hands and my eyes on.
Geri Larkin called the process "stumbling toward enlightenment" and that is just what it is - a slow (occasionally ecstatic) lurching along a pitted winding trail toward a luminous state of being which evades wordy description and feels like home.
Sometimes that luminous something shows itself to us for a moment through the trees or as a dancing presence between one raindrop and the next. When that happens, the feeling and the memory stay with us. It is astonishing how many of these many moments (for me anyway) are about rainy days and autumn's falling leaves. Call it kensho or momentary enlightenment - it's magic at work. It's being in tune and part of this beautiful breathing world; it's clouds and quiet waters and bare October hillsides strewn with rainbow colored leaves; it's a whole McIntosh apple, freshly picked, all shined up, rosy and fragrant and dappled with dew.
October 5, 2012
resting easy in friday rambles