Thursday, May 6, 2010

Clarity and Sunshine and Stillness

My dog, Vivvi, was greatly in need of exercise, so I took her out to “the farm” – the now-houseless two acres my Gustafson grandparents lived on for sixty years. I poked around in the old buildings for a while and wandered around the yard while Vivvi ran with the happy abandon of a much younger dog. Eventually, I pulled the big green blanket out of my minivan and spread it under the ancient Matriarch of the farm.

I can never remember what variety of tree it is—and it doesn’t matter. This early in May the Matriarch’s leaves are sparse and so high that I couldn’t identify them even if I was into that sort of thing. Which I’m not. No matter, the Matriarch is a giant tree which gives a mountain of shade in the summer. But I’m not looking for shade. I’m reading a good book—a gothic novel recommended by Rachel Marks—and I just want to pick up where I left off last night. So while Vivvi proceeds to find every cocklebur and puddle of water within a six-acre radius (this is how we measure things in rural Iowa), I read.

Libba Bray’s evocative prose soars across the streets of London, but the tone--the atmosphere of the scene—is dark; chilly. And I am sprawled in the sunshine—the pure, undiluted, life-affirming light of Spring. Deciding the words can wait, I close the book and roll onto my back.

It’s pretty windy. It’s almost always windy at the farm—breezy at the very least. Today the wind is conducting the fledgling leaves of the tall cottonwood at the other end of the yard in a waterfall chorus. I don’t know if it is the shape, texture, or proximity of the leaves of that particular cottonwood tree (yes, I know a couple of tree names—but only because I’ve asked ‘the people who know.’) but if you stand under it, or even near it, on a windy day, the sound mimics that of a roaring waterfall.

It’s totally cool.

So I’m lying beneath the Matriarch, listening to the wind rustle her leaves, hearing the imaginary waterfall across the yard, and feeling the white blaze of the afternoon sun against my closed eyes. I’m doing… nothing. And I like it! It feels decadent… and yet, right. It’s been so long since I’ve taken a moment to just be still; to clear my mind of all the have-tos, the want-to-dos, and the should-dos to just be.

There was once a chicken house under this enormous tree, but it’s gone now. I am resting almost exactly where the old, red building used to be. Like my mother before me, when I was a little girl visiting my grandparents in the summertime, I would invariably climb up onto the sloping roof of the chicken house, spread a towel on the rusty tin, and read for hours on end. Sometimes, however, I would just lie there and listen to the birds, the wind, and the whooshing, wishing gossip of the trees. I would plan, I would imagine, and I would dream of the wonderful adventures I would have when I grew up. I was a child. I knew little about the art--the practice, of being Still.

I’m still learning.

The trees whisper while the sunshine seeps through my skin and into my soul. It is welcome. Lately our weather has been cold wind and thunderstorms and pummeling rain--the chill gray days which seep into your mood if you let them. But this blue sky is far from moody gray and the wind is playful rather than the vengeful slapping of recent memory. As these thoughts flit like butterflies across my mind I’m reminded of Elijah waiting within a cave for the Lord to pass by. And I’m feeling His Presence within the whispering leaves, the clear blue May sky, the birdsong, and the waterfall cottonwood tree. I feel His Welcome in the sway of the Matriarch’s arms as she welcome’s back a girl with a book, though it is closed, to nearly the same place that this now-grown-up girl found enchanting as a child.

I feel Stillness.

And it is good.

I guess people like me need to step away from the reflecting pool of books for a moment or two every now and then. We need to take time to close our eyes to the addictive power of words in order to soak within the bright, warm embrace of a Whisper rather than a reflection.

Time to go. But I won't leave empty-handed.


I'm home again. It's a new day. It’s time to take that solar energy and apply it to my work; to let my fingers be the conduit for a whisper to reach the page--hoping that Truth is reflected with a clearer freshness now that the waters have, for a moment, been stilled.

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