this river in me

I awaken early this morning, rested, though not yet completely peaceful, simply knowing it is  time to rise into the quiet of the day. Yes, quiet is what my body craves much more than another hour of sleep.  

My husband in the shower, I tiptoe from the room, down the stairs, and head, not to the computer, which is often one of my first stops in the morning (to check on my belongingness, I suppose, through my connections to others) but to the far corner of the room, next to the hearth, where my dulcimer stands propped up, waiting for me to bring her to life.

I’ve recently read that some of us bear the archetype of ‘hearth-maker’ into this place, and that those of us who desire to create such places of warmth and sanctuary for others are often called to create complementary spaces within, for ourselves. Places at the center of our being, where we can be quiet, warm, uncluttered, and fed. And yet, both my home and my inner house seem to be in chaos. Perhaps it is time to rekindle that connection to my self.  

The inner is outer. The outer, inner.

For as much as I crave solitude and silence in my life, sometimes I’m acutely aware that the chaos inside this boundary of skin that I call me is at times much louder than cacophonous riot about which I lament out there. Perhaps then, all of my fears and objections, projected onto the screen of a technologically-possessed and surface-scattered culture, one which I perceive (judge?) as being unable to think deeply, move slowly, and breathe quietly, are  merely projections of my own fears at being unable to truly remain for any period of time in such a place.

 The inner is outer. The outer, inner.  

Just as entering into a wilderness experience of external silence (at least the absence of the external sounds of HUMANITY— the humming and drumming of machines, the bells and whistles of technology, the constant background banter)  makes me acutely aware of how much noise I have grown accustomed to shutting out (though not really shutting out at all, but rather accommodating myself to), so does entering into the wilderness of my own internal spaces make me acutely aware of the similar background noise within myself. 

How have I accommodated myself to this noise, either by making myself numb to its background influence or, more likely, being profoundly influenced by it beneath my awareness? Do I avoid the quiet in order to not hear the noise?

 Silence is a wild and frightening place at times and I suspect I often race back to the relative safety of noise rather than hear what is there. But is noise really safe? If it is cutting me off from the deeper roots of myself, or if my internal chatter is in truth controlling me in unacknowledged ways?

 Perhaps the reason that I crave the silence so is because I rarely truly taste it, let alone savor it, digest it, experience the saturation and the sustenance of its nurture……On the other hand, I suspect that there are times when I impose silence upon myself, not as a way of listening deeply at all, but as a method of silencing myself.

 Periods of imposed external silence vividly accentuate just how loud it is in here, how much lies, interrupting the signal, between these surface expressions of myself and the deeper Self that waits to be born, . This weekend, in the midst of the noise that spilled out of my riotous head and scrawled itself madly, exclaiming its fear and distress, its uncertainty and despair, its torment and contempt, across the pages of my journal during such a period of imposed silence- one which I couldn’t run from nor escape-came these words, smaller, quieter than the rest , ‘there is no stillness in me’ . And again, much later, having ignored that first silent cry, ‘there is no stillness in me’.   

And then, clearly, I heard the whisper of the Midwife of my Soul, reminding me to breathe.  If I am to birth my Self into this world, I must remember to breathe.

 Perhaps if you looked at my life from the outside, you might disagree that my life is filled with noise and distraction. I spend most of my days alone and never turn on the radio or tv. But solitude is not the same as silence, after all. There are as many ways to be alone and filled with distraction as there are ways to be caught up in the distractions that others bring to our lives. One can use a book (or the words on a computer screen) after all to create noise to take you out of yourself … and sometimes that is very good!….or prayerfully let those same words be carried inside to connect with something deeper within yourself. Perhaps I needed those hours of imposed silence this weekend, in the midst of community to which I held myself accountable (after all, I was the one leading the retreat!), to finally hear! all that noise, to let it up and out to be acknowledged and released — with all of its ranting-and-ravings — in order to make space for the still, small voice that lay beneath it. Perhaps that last bit of winter debris needed to be carried away to make room for some new bud to open.  

Actually, I pondered this space quite a bit during the retreat, this place of nagging and lingering winter that won’t seem to let go and let me get on with growing. On April 1st (April fool’s day) I’d awakened to notice ground outside my window, covered once again with a coating of snow,  even as crocus and daffodil buds were opening. It made me wonder what could possibly remain, which still requires winter’s stripping, winter’s freezing, winter’s call to stillness. Quiet. It made me realize my own impatience, my own desire to force the bud open.

Here I stand, once again, as always, at the point of tension…. at the point of union.

Hildegard von Bingen gave me the word, veriditas, or greening, to describe this process of yearning and becoming that humanity undertakes throughout life. She lived in a landscape in Germany, much like my own here in Pennsylvania, and so her natural-world icons for God speak the language of my soul. (The inner is outer, the outer is inner). No wilderness or desert imagery for her, though she did speak of dryness being a symptom of a soul in distress, or of one’s own sense of separation from the life of the soul. To address this dryness, Her imagery for Spirit /Love, and thus the source of our greening, is Water… in all of the ways that Water comes to us…. in the air and on land, in dew and flood, river and storm.

 It became clear to me the way in which my own yearning is met by this nurturing and green-making (lovemaking) water as I imaged myself deep in a forest, seated next to a mountain stream, which is flowing over moss-covered stones and bordered by moss-covered trees, budding rhododendron and virgin hemlock. This is clearly a hearth-space for me, a place of internal and external sanctuary and nurture, of peace and tranquility. Here, I am not exposed to heat and other drying elements, protected as I am by a dense canopy of leaves. Here, I yearn only for the water to sing its song,  to be present to the refreshment it brings to the profuse and blossoming greenery rooted along its banks, and for myself only to be witness to its beauty. My eyes long for this water, but I am not in the water. I am deeply content to be by its side, witnessing its beauty and the beauty of the things it brings to life. Today, I’ve no desire to get into the current, to slip on rocks or get tripped by the current.  Here in this place there is both presence and shelter, solitude and beauty. Here I am quiet, invulnerable, still, at peace. It is to this place I must go for clarity and wisdom.

 Again, in this place, I hear the so-often-repeated call to Beauty. Always this call to Beauty — to be Her witness, to seek Her presence, to be Her eyes. Always, always this call. I have known this call to be a call to prayer, for if I am constanting seeking and perceiving, noticing and receiving Beauty, I am in constant prayer– my way to remain present, mindful, in love.  But today I wonder aloud in my journal,  ‘is this enough?’ (as if there could be anything more?) Is this place merely the place that I go only for refreshment? .. …… perhaps so, AND perhaps there is a complementary call to express this Beauty, to Be  Beauty?  How does one go about being that? ….

The outer is inner, the inner is outer.

Hildegard was given to the church as a tithe, as the 10th child, when she was 8 years old. It was not until she was 42 years old that she heard the voice telling her to ‘speak and write what you see and hear’.  How long was her own gestation in the darkness of the womb? How long did her own sense of who she was called to be go underground before it burst forth prolifically into abundant blossom—in poetry and art, music and prose, theology and cosmology, apothecary and horticulture. How long was that blossom in bud?

 I recall my own dream when I too was 42 years old. In it, a woman’s  voice startles me awake with these words, ‘You are bound to beauty.’  –as if I cannot be rent from it, as if it is tied to my back like wings, as if there is no place to which I can be drawn but to Her.  (These are profoundly healing words to me, for much of my own wounding occurred when I was bound in quite a different way.)  Again, and again, I am reminded that Beauty is both who I am and Whose I am… that I must seek Her blossom as She also seeks mine, that I am to be a witness to Her Beauty in all things, as She is a witness to mine. I recall this dream this morning as I rise.

I recall as well another dream, 10 years ago, when I was not yet 40,  yet another voice in the light, a light that I ached to remain rooted in forever, in which I heard the voice clearly instructing me to ‘let myself be filled, be filled, be filled, deep into my roots, and that I would overflow from the filling’. I go back to the message in that dream again and again and I know that there is not at all something I must do in order to fulfill my purpose, but that there is something I must allow. I must allow myself to be filled, to let the water, or the light, pour into me, drench me, fill my roots and my trunk with moisture. Green me. Let myself be grown into a beautiful ‘ leaf-perfumed tree that sways without breaking’* . When I take myself out of that flow of receiving Love, I dry up, and I suspect that what I am getting and giving from that place of dryness is not always of Love at all.

 It’s time to get wet.

 And so I climb from my bed in the predawn, to catch the dew while the grass is still cold. Still so close to that place of deep sacred slumber that I am able to feel the heat of God’s breath, I sit with the music on my lap. I begin to strum the strings… the drone of the chord, constant, the same, oneness, deep peace, eternal, all is well…the moving melody that I am laid out atop it, and the love-making begins.

 And it is as if all of the chaos in my cells– all of the self-scornful, fearful, doubt-filled and screaming voices in my head, all of the taken-in negative energy from others– are like logs in a logjam,  blocked up behind some obstruction and the music organizes them somehow so they are able to move at last.  The chaos becomes order, and the peace begins to flow. Perhaps it is merely something in the vibration of the strings that causes something in me to vibrate, the way the cells in my body also vibrate in rhythm to the rocks and the trees when I place my hand or my heart on theirs. Creation is Divine music too, of course. I have read that the vibration of the earth has been measured to be approximately the same vibration that is measured when a human being goes into prayer or meditation. Yes, this is most definitely prayer.

 It is as if the music tunes ME, and as if it attunes me to the sacred. The outer is inner. The inner is outer. I have not felt Divinity in music so clearly in this way before, known it in my body this way…. oh, of course, now that is not true either, but this is today, fresh, now, present. I feel powerfully and quietly the last residual pieces of dis-ease, which are swimming in my cells,  flow out of me.

I am peace.

 I have stepped into the flow, let myself be filled and healed. Let myself be touched by Beauty. Let myself be seen and loved . I turn the page in my journal and there She is, in quotes, ‘All God wants of you is a peaceful heart’~ Meister Eckhart


*quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in ‘The Joyous Body’


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. claire
    Apr 05, 2011 @ 15:26:34

    An absolutely delightfully fantastic post 🙂 So much to feast upon…



  2. Traildancer
    Apr 06, 2011 @ 11:34:19

    Beautifully expressed…I could feel my own sense of inner agitation calm as I read your words.



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