Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Finding a Separate World in the Stillness

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Finding a Separate World in the Stillness

Article excerpt

CLOUD-WATCHING should be a required school subject. I try to recall the facts and figures poured into me as a student in a traditional public grammar school, but what I rest on in memory is the just-mowed grass of my front lawn where I'd spend hours on my back reading the sky.

Last summer, I sat under an East-Coast sky on a dry day. I turned my head slightly. In a nearby tree, a cardinal began to sing. How many times since my cousin pointed out the bird to me had I looked for the source of that sweet song?

I'd heard the melody while unloading the groceries, while sorting through materials for recycling, while watering the garden.

Sometimes the busyness of daily life encourages a numbness and speed that can dull the senses to beauty in the ordinary, to the necessity of stopping to locate a bird's song.

Often I'll walk by something again and again until I slow enough to notice it. It takes a certain stillness to find things that are close. It wasn't until I was quiet enough to watch clouds that I saw and heard the cardinal at the same time.

On dry days I'll see my children stretched out on the lawn. Their long slender legs cross and recross. It surprises me that my daughter, Hallie, who usually cartwheels her way across any surface longer than two or three feet, can be so quiescent.

ON a recent camping trip, my family laid sleeping bags side-by-side under a dark Idaho sky. It was a warm dry evening. No need for a tent.

The next morning, I woke to see another family who must have slipped into the camp well after we were sleeping. About 15 feet from me was a young boy. As far as I could see, he and I were the only two people awake in our vicinity.

It was so quiet that the sounds of the nearby river were magnified, and the steps of the roving Canada geese could be measured by the rustle of grass. Apparently the geese had moved close to us to feast on the remains of last night's dinner that had slid unnoticed under campground tables and chairs.

In a sleeping bag, even the slightest movement can cause a rustle that is magnified in silence. Yet the boy rested so still, his head cupped in his hands, that the only way I knew he was awake was that occasionally our eyes would meet. …

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