The Other Side of Silence

Sh trees

These woods are lovely, dark and deep…

I am — quietly — counting my blessings today.

Here in Sydneytown we are experiencing a gloriously golden run of autumn weather: blue-skied and sun-filled by day, crisp and starlit by night.

This morning I was fortunate enough to spend time with a dear friend, to enjoy quiet conversation, a couple of coffees and good company.

And now, back at home, I am taking time to dive deep into silence that surrounds me, knowing that when I resurface it will be with a sense of renewal.

I have written before about the importance of solitude in my life, of taking time out to make sense of all that is in my head and of separating my self from my mad mental chatter. But lately, I have come to realise (yet again) just how essential it is for me to spend time in quiet contemplation. I have learned that if I don’t permit myself the time and space to be silent and still, I end up feeling a little like the poet Emily Dickinson — “out with Lanterns, looking for myself”.

For me, contemplation is linked, as ever, to my First Principles: words, music and food. There is something akin to healing for me in the act of writing, of making sense of my thoughts by creating something with words on a page. Similarly, I find solace in listening to music and to the timeless rituals of preparing food for my family — in both of these things I rediscover the rhythms that make my life more manageable, more meaningful.

Sh Unplug

Anne Lamott, telling it how it is.

Our lives these days are lived at such a frenetic pace, are filled with so many activities and events that it is easy to forget to unwind. To unplug.

We know that just about any electronic device we possess that suddenly stops working effectively will probably start working again if we reboot it, or let it recharge. But do we allow our selves this simple measure? Are we so focused on the future and driven by fear of missing out that we are forgetting to hit the refresh button on our lives? Do we remember to allocate time in our busy schedules for renewal? For revival?

The philosopher Alain de Botton suggests that “anxiety grows from thoughts we haven’t given ourselves time to have”, and I suspect he is right. He also speaks of “our disrespect for thinking: someone sitting in a chair, gazing out of a window, always described as ‘doing nothing’.”

Sh shiny

Ahhh yes…the shiny things…

When did we all become human doings instead of human beings, to the point that appearing to be doing nothing is frowned upon or even scorned? And when will we come to treat quiet contemplation as being essential to our wellbeing?

When will we make space for silence?

Because it is on the other side of silence that I find my place in this world, my moral compass, and — more often than not — I manage to catch a glimpse of whatever shiny thing I might otherwise have missed.

On the other side of silence, I find my self.

 

 

Drinking White Wine in the Sun…

I…really like Christmas…it’s sentimental, I know, but I just really like it…

I’m one of those people who really gets into Christmas. I look forward to it — can’t get enough of decorating the tree, wrapping presents, creating table centrepieces and playing carols.

Every year we pick a different colour theme to use throughout the house, from the wreath on the door to the baubles on the tree, not to mention the wrapping on the presents beneath it. Somehow it seems to make Christmas fresh and shiny and new each year, and we know from the colours exactly which year it was whenever we look back at the photographs.

But yesterday I got a text from a very dear friend proclaiming that she is already over Christmas — that she can’t wait for it to be through.

And I realised, not for the first time this Christmas, that I’m one of the lucky ones.

Every single one of my living blood relatives resides in the same city as me. Just about all of our marriages are all still intact, some of them after more than forty years. And while I wouldn’t describe the vast majority of my family members as normal (whatever that means), we still all speak to each other…well, most of the time, anyway.

I do know just how lucky I am. I’ve celebrated Christmas thousands of miles from home and family members, and spent my childhood celebrating it twice as a result of my grandparents’ divorce — or three times if we made the long trek up the Pacific Highway to do it all again with my relatives in Queensland too.

Looking around at my circle of friends I see so many dear ones who have made Australia their home, and who still have family elsewhere. I know that at Christmas their thoughts will inevitably turn to England, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Poland, Austria, Brazil…and I also know that however much we love it, Australia is a long way from most other places.

Wherever you are and whatever you face, these are the people who make you feel safe in this world…

I can’t take away the distance, or whatever dysfunction might affect your family situation this Christmas. But it is my fervent hope that you get to celebrate with the people you love, who mean something to you, regardless of whether they are related to you or not.

What I can do is share with you my favourite Christmas song.  It’s not a carol — but a beautiful, irreverent, heartfelt piece by the inimitable Tim Minchin. For me, it captures the spirit of Christmas in Australia, and sums up the way my family celebrates each year.

I can’t watch it through without tearing up.

But if you’re on your own this Christmas, or if your family situation is fractured or somehow faulty, or if you’re nine thousand miles from the people who dared to bring you into this world and gave you the courage to roam it, or if you are lucky enough celebrate Christmas surrounded by the people you love, or whatever your circumstances are — this is for you.

And me? The Bloke? Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop?

We’ll be seeing my Dad, my brother and sister-in-law, my nieces and Mum…we’ll be drinking white wine in the sun…