Monday, April 26, 2010

The Murder of Quiet

Driving home from the market today, I sat at an intersection next to a mini-van with children in it. Certainly not that remarkable, I assure you...however, there were also tv screens. Three of them. Attached to the back of the seats in front, all three had a different program on....and three little heads had three sets of earbuds and while mom was chatting to whomever on her blue tooth, there was an air of....what? Peace? Not exactly. Isolation? Detachment?

Flashbacks of my childhood grocery sisters and I rattling on, joking...laughing. (to the point that my mother actually used to PAY us a quarter if we could be quiet the whole way home--cheeky thing) But none the less, there was a curious satisfying mingling....ideas and thoughts Family.

I turned the corner and headed home. Parking I noticed the neighbor cutting his lawn...i-pod attached. A couple walked by, pushing a stroller with a toddler...she was on her cell phone, he was messing with a black berry and the toddler? Had some kind of hand-held game that was maniacally beeping and buzzing to his obvious delight. I walked inside the house, dropping keys on the entry table. Kicking my shoes under the bench I made my way to the kitchen with my culinary loot. The window was open...a breeze tickled the back of my neck as I slid the onions into their basket, nestled peaches and plums together in the bowl....packed away the eggs and cheese and milk. I could hear the birds in the backyard...a distant dog barking...and leaning against the counter, I just closed my eyes and smiled. You know that feeling? So good to be home.

Dinner begun, slicing bacon and onions, the sizzle in the pan...delicious aromas filled the room and I thought about my day. What I'd said, whom I met....and it suddenly occurred to me, "I wonder if that couple thinks....through the noise."

The incessant blur that is our technological revolution. It's a attack on the senses and the mind as we rise each day. The "convenience" we demand: portable everything. Music everywhere we go--cellphones and crackberries and games--oh, the holiest of grails: entertainment. Heaven forbid you actually might have to wait in line at the post office without having a game to play.

And I wonder....

Could we design a study....concoct a thesis....could there really be a correlation between the moral disintegration of our society, the eroding of our families.....and the simple lack of quiet.

In the quiet, there is only you. In the quiet.....there your actions are to be faced. Decisions made in haste are rethought...apologies composed as you hear your own angry words reverberating in your mind. In the quiet, goals are set. Dreams are discovered, plans made...ideas go from mere wisps to full-fledged intentions.

The quiet is not always comfortable. It holds ghosts...mistakes. But it is within this very discomfort that we surpass the animal world--where our humanness thrives--where we become....more.

There was a time, when going for a walk meant thinking about your day, not sifting through the latest playlist. When we mowed our lawns or planted our gardens...we examined our lives. Have we lost this in the endless quest for entertainment and distraction? Can we not ride the bus and actually have a pleasant conversation with a stranger? Must we all be surrounded by a wall...a distance created by cords and headphones.

Are we "entertaining" ourselves into isolation? And in this individual plastic creation--are we becoming so self-centered, so absolutely used to having it "our way"--that the slightest detour from this--the inconvenience of another's schedule, wishes, taste in music for goodness sakes! becomes an intrusion?

Some of the greatest moments of my life, the beginnings of glorious love and friendships and joy...were inconveniences and interruptions.

The greatest epiphanies in my heart--both blissful and agonizing--occurred in the quiet.

Today....tonight, on your commute, on your walk...turn off the noise. Unplug. Just listen. Listen to your heart, the voice of your may be wonderfully surprised by what it has to say.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Deliciousness of Dirt

Sometimes I can almost feel the calcification of my bones in the cold. It seeps into my tendons and muscles, permeating tissues...they petrify.

And then one morning, shuffling to the car...a pause. What--a breeze? Not the acrid scrape of winter's breath, but something warm, soft...sweet. Time lapse photography would document the melting of snow, the green mist that crept across the yard...and perhaps the daily lightening of my steps. Secret smiles beneath the curtain of my hair as careful fingers plucked blackened leaves from tiny nubs, tulips and daffodils gasping for air. The brittle smack of tape and plastic peeled from the ancient 15 paned window in the dining room; the hand crank turns and glass glides and creamy sheer curtains billow into the room....sweet spring.

My knees are sore...the left one stained from the tear in my jeans. The sun was irresistible--and the light glow on my shoulder blades testifies to my careless abandonment of the sweater I ventured out in. Spaghetti tank straps have left ivory shadows behind. Ahhhh...the seduction. Dark and loamy, vital...the smell of soil. Alive. Plunging my hands deep into the bed, breaking clumps, churning the earth, burgeoning with the promise of basil and rosemary....fresh tomatoes, cucumber salad with prawns and dill.

Kneading the dirt, I wonder at the miracle that takes the dead, the digested...the waste of our lives and with heat and light and time...creates the perfect medium for new growth. Last year's mistakes, miscalculations....become life.
How often we miss this. Frantically I have tried to rearrange, reorder...rethink. Perhaps I have lost the marvel that is the garden. Renewal. Rebirth.
My fingers seek out bits of tangled roots, the weeds of last season desperately clinging to the hope of invisibility. Have I let the weeds in my mind take root? The smallest of seeds can grab hold...invade. Do we evaluate our lives with the care that Home Depot assumes we take with our lawns? What do we cultivate...what do we thin. Our work, our homes....schedules, family, commitments. Do we plant the extravagant as well as the healthy? Mint and lavender and plums...

Every garden is temporary. Each has a season. Casual hands bear spindly fruits. It's the careful heart, the attentive soul, the calloused palm...that reaps succulent bounty.