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. There is also the Old Saxon and Old High German stilli, the Dutch stollen meaning "to curdle", and Sanskrit sthānús meaning "immobile".
It's difficult not to think about stillness at a time of year when wild cousins are heading south or finding nice warm caves and planning to sleep until springtime rolls around again. Birds such as geese, loons and the great herons fly south for the winter. Bears, frogs, hedgerows and old trees hibernate and dream their way through the long white season.
Implicit in this week's word are notions of tranquility, rest and connection, an inclusive flowing that takes in our befuddled human selves and the cosmos all 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 and stress, and we need stillness if we are to complete our journey, creatively, fruitfully, and without going completely bonkers.
If this place is about anything at all, it is about stillness. Woodland wanderings, sheaves of mediocre photos, written meanderings in the wee hours of the morning, all are merely shaky efforts to be still and be present, located in every breath I take and rooted in the world where I was planted this time around. Geri Larkin calls the process "stumbling toward enlightenment" and that is what it is—a slow lurch toward a place of joyous being that evades description and feels just like home. She also wrote that it is our job in life to dance, to dance with our whole breath, our whole body, the whole world, the whole universe. Though this part of the journey be rough going, there is joy around here, and there is a fair bit of dancing (sometimes just lurching about) too.
Once in a while, something luminous shows itself in a few bars of music, through a cluster of trees or as a dancing presence between one raindrop and the next. Call it kensho or momentary enlightenment—there's elemental magic at work at such times. It's being in tune with clouds and water and hillsides strewn with rainbow-colored leaves. It's Vivaldi's The Four Seasons or Bach's Cello Suite No.1 on the CD player as the day begins and amber cups of Darjeeling at sundown. It's the blue pottery bowl of Macintosh apples on the sideboard, rosy and fragrant and a perfect expression of autumn in all her glory. I can almost hear the little dears singing, and I am certain they dance when I am not looking.