Ah, sweet stillness... It's a 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. There is also the Old Saxon and Old High German stilli, the Dutch stollen meaning "to curdle", and Sanskrit sthānús meaning "immobile". Curdle???
It's difficult not to think about stillness when leaves are turning, when wild cousins are preparing to migrate or searching for warm dens and making plans to sleep until springtime rolls around again. Birds like geese, loons and the great herons fly south for the winter; bears, frogs, hedgerows and old trees all hibernate and dream their way through the long white season.
Implicit in this week's word are notions of tranquility and rest, freedom from turmoil and commotion, community and connection, a gentle inclusive flowing that takes in our own befuddled human selves and the whole, glorious, turning cosmos around us. The late John Daido Loori wrote that every creature on the face of the earth seemed to know how to be quiet and still, but that humans seemed 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. We need quiet and rest in season; we need stillness if we are to complete our earthly journey, mindfully and fruitfully.
If this place is about anything at all, it is about stillness. Early morning wanderings with Spencer and my camera, sheaves of bad photos and unstructured verbal meanderings at sunrise - all are fumbling efforts to be still and present, to be located in every breath I take and firmly rooted in the world where I am standing. I am already there of course, but being elderly and somewhat forgetful, I need all the reminders I can get. Geri Larkin calls the process "stumbling toward enlightenment" and that is what it is–—a slow (occasionally ecstatic) lurching along winding trails toward a luminous state of being that evades description and feels like home.
Sometimes that luminous something shows itself through trees or as a dancing presence between one raindrop and the nest. It is astonishing how many of those moments (for me anyway) are about rainy September days and falling leaves. Call it kensho or momentary enlightenment–—it's wild, elemental magic at work. It's being in tune with creation and part of this beautiful breathing world with its clouds and quiet waters, its hillsides strewn with rainbow colored leaves. It's Vivaldi on the CD player as the day begins and cups of Darjeeling at sunset. It's a blue pottery bowl of Macintosh apples on the sideboard, rosy and fragrant and redolent of autumn splendor. I can almost hear them singing.