Years ago I heard about a study where a scientist went looking for an amount of space where absolute silence existed. He went all over the world searching for one square foot of silence but couldn’t find it, not even in the recesses of the western Pacific forests. The reason? Nothing could stop and be silent for any period of time…either a leaf fell from a tree, or an insect moved or someone’s breath made a sound…but nothing could rest long enough for the scientist to measure silence.
Sad really that we aren’t able to find measurable amounts of silence or be able to practice stillness in our own lives.
When I was fifteen I was fortunate enough to go with my father and stepmother to the island of St. Barts. One day we took a boat trip on a catamaran and I remember sitting at the end of the boat, my feet dangling in the azure waters, earphones beating the sounds of Paul Simon’s Graceland into my thoughts. For hours, I played the cassette tape over and over again, listening to every word and every beat as my feet grazed the tops of the waves and my eyes glanced upwards towards the Caribbean mountains of the islands. To this day, that is probably one of my fondest memories, and one of only a few moments of true stillness in my life.
I struggle today with staying still for too long. Either I’m writing or counseling, talking on the phone, planning with friends or Alex, driving here or there…but always moving.
Today was different. I allowed myself to sleep in and then I took the puppies outside to run around with their older brother. I sat on a chair and watched as they played, enjoying the simple act of play which only puppies, who know no better, can teach us. I watched the birds fly overhead, probably wondering what was going on below as they chased each other for no reason. I smelled the dirt and the fresh grass. I listened to the wind.
And then I went inside and as they took a nap, I layed on the bed, fan blowing the sheets around my ankles, and I read some ridiculous suspense novel for probably an hour. Afterwards I placed the book on my nightstand and just listened to the sounds coming through the window. And I remembered that day on the boat and wondered where so many days in between had gone. And the day drifted on and on and on.
When Alex came home from work, we sat on the back patio, planning our garden for the summer, as the dogs again played, never tiring of this game of chase and catch. We talked to our 90 year old neighbor about her rose bushes and we hung up the wind chimes. I sat on the front porch, talking to my best friend Tonya on the phone, watching the worms crawl around in the soil in our mulch and I waved to my other neighbors as they walked down the street. And the day drifted on…
And I remembered stillness; the very act which is so vital like air to our lungs. We forget to take a few moments every day to remember why we’re here and to truly enjoy the simple things, the small things. My mother loved the small things. The sound of rain on the rooftop or the glaze of the first snow on the trees. The smell of homemade, chocolate chip cookies in the oven and the touch of grass on the bottom of your feet at night in the summer. And most importantly, she loved the feel of the crisp sheets against her legs as she fell asleep…and I’m reminded of that every night.
And she doesn’t have the luxury to be hurried anymore or to take these things for granted…because she’s gone, as are many others. But we’re not, which is why we should stop, drop and roll through the spring grass and enjoy the small things…staying still a few moments every day…
Because we’re on borrowed time as it is!