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 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, freedom from turmoil and commotion, community and connection, and 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 wrote 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.
If this place is about anything, it is about stillness. In my early morning wanderings with Spencer and camera, the bad photos and unstructured verbal potterings at sunrise, are my fumbling efforts to be still and present in the moment, connected and part of the great wide world I am standing in. I am already there (and that) if I only had the wits to realize it, but being forgetful, I need all the reminders I can rest my hands and eyes on. There are times when I wonder if I will ever get things right.
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. It is astonishing how many of those moments (for me anyway) are about rainy days and autumn's falling leaves. Call it kensho or momentary enlightenment - it's elemental 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 bowl of Macintosh apples on the old oak table, rosy and fragrant and dappled with dew.