Sunday, March 20, 2011

On Emptiness, c. Summer 2010

My little townhouse-that-could was almost empty, after days of packing and loading and driving and unpacking and square dancing around the boxes in my new house. Even with all of that, I didn't realize what was happening until the sound of my own voice startled me – I was skimming up the stairs to grab one last thing before break time, singing “Girl, put your records on…” when I heard myself reverberating off the stairwell.

I stopped, first to make sure it wasn't an intruder, singing a pretty song to lure me in…and then I sang a little more, just to test. The echo sounded nice, in the way that a wind instrument makes music when air is blown through the hollow body. The clean floors and bare walls were part of the production; the sounds that they shaped were haunting and pretty. Reminded me of the barbershop quartet in the Metro near Pentagon Square, or the daily Mass choir practicing in the Memorial Hall stairwell at Benedictine.
Plain, quiet, bare space is really very pretty, very peaceful. But to create that in my interior life, that's not an easy thing. I have to work to create space for myself to develop and process and reverberate. I just attempted to "blank slate" myself at the beginning of this summer, staying home with for two weeks to “get some rest” - sleeping in, waking with no expectations, making my "schedule" up as I went along. I could do whatever I wanted, and I did what I thought I wanted. But somehow, the empty boxes on my cleared agenda weren't freeing. The days ended up being dry and uninspiring, and my head rattled around in a daze. My life was relatively void of responsibility, and I had expected rest. Instead, I stripped away any rhythm, times, conversations and commitments that brought life, and my recreation re-created nothing. Real serenity wasn't afforded to me when I sought indulgent self-preservation, gutting my mind of thought.

Now, to speak of other emptinesses - ones cleared patiently, and filled with purpose:

Right now, in India, my friend is staring at her hotel ceiling, dealing with typhoid and other such movie star diseases. Far from glamorous, Tina writes this of her experience...

I spoke this week with another dear friend who had given birth to a baby boy. For the good portion of a year, this lady gave all that she had for a silent, little person - unseen, save the bloppy black-and-white sonogram that confirmed Liam was indeed in utero. I quietly cried happy tears into the phone to hear of her joy after waiting for nine months, arranging blankets in an empty crib.
In emptiness, beauty has space to echo. I’ve heard it before – “in the silence of the heart, God speaks.” In  the quiet, babies develop and minds process and sounds echo into something more than they once were.

Now read this.

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