We were snowed in yesterday and this made for a quiet, if boring, day. The taste of warm weather just a few days before convinced Beaven and I that spring was just around the corner so we spent some time outside on Saturday clearing brush around our creek. I finished radiation treatments on Friday and was happy to be back to normal life. It felt good to run the chainsaw again, to pull tree limbs out of tangled vines. Never have sore muscles felt as good as when I got out of bed the next morning. It felt like an honest tiredness.
But yesterday we were confined to the indoors. We spent our time watching the cat watch birds at the bird feeders. He was all but drooling around the whiskers wishing he could get his paws on one of those fluttery things. He watched them through the window for a while then went outside to watch where he at least had a chance to grab one. Then he came inside and ran around the house for about ten minutes. It’s good that at least someone gets some exercise around here.
I’m all about being peaceful now. A couple of weeks ago I went to a retreat to learn how to get peaceful so I feel quite the authority. Almost every year my New Year’s resolution is something about getting peaceful if it kills me. As I age and slow down physically I realize I’m going to have to figure out how to be successfully sedentary if I want to stay sane.
One of the first things we found out at the retreat was that our meals would be eaten without talking to each other. I wasn’t so sure I would be able to handle it. Everyone knows what a talker I am. Breakfast was to be silent. We would get our food from the dinner line and take it to an upstairs room where all 16 of us sat and ate without speaking.
This idea came from the retreat leaders, our pastor and her husband. Anne and David had recently spent a week at a monastery in New Mexico where meals were spent in silence.
A couple of people who know me joked about whether I could do this and it really wasn’t a joke to me. I really did wonder how being silent would make me feel. Just the thought of it made me anxious. I prayed and journaled about it. To my surprise I woke the next morning feeling rejuvenated. I couldn’t wait to get to breakfast and try this new technique. Yes, I manage to do it. And I felt good doing it.
Lunch was eaten again without talking but with some scripture read to us while we ate. For our evening meal we had Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing in the background. The music was fairly peppy and we found ourselves eating in time to the music, in other words, fast. We finished in silence alright but also in record time. Apparently, talking can slow you down sometimes.
Oh, and the tomahawk throwing….. the retreat was billed as “Spiritual Practices.” David wanted to demonstrate the concept that you have to practice something to get better at it. Lord knows where he came up with the idea of throwing a tomahawk but he found stuff about that art on the internet and bought three of the things. So, we all lined up outside and started throwing hatchets around.
Bet you never did that at church camp, did you?
The retreat was a wonderful mix of learning new things and spending some time being quiet. We had time in the middle of the second day to just sit around and do whatever we wanted. For the couple of pastors with us it may have been a rare experience to have free time. We set up two tables full of books we could read in our spare time. Some people put together a jigsaw puzzle at odd moments of the day and late into the evening. I took a short nap.
So, now that I’ve been formally trained in how to be peaceful I just knew I could put all that to work on a day when snow and ice shut down the world outside my window. Not a chance. Neither one of us knew what to do with ourselves. Beaven had the police scanner going all day listening to calls for wreckers. One sheriff reported being hit by another car when it spun out of control. I did not find peace in being cooped up against my will; with our constant monitoring of CNN and Egypt’s unrest. There was no peace to be found there. Nor did I found it in the television pictures of icy roads around the nation.
I only found peace when I went to bed before Beaven, shut the bedroom door and spent time alone and listening in silence.
I can attest to this: that after living out here in the country with only the most nominal of neighbors, I have gained a new appreciation of silence. The book table at the retreat had a lot of books on silence. And I read them at this point in my life not for clues on how to find and embrace silence but as affirmation of its value.
Silence in the midst of other people at the retreat felt new and strange but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I feared it would be. I could probably learn to be good at it with some practice. But I do know that I’m already pretty good at silence when I am alone. I find peace best when the world is quiet, when I leave room for God to speak.
I gained no insights or revelations last night. Only the reassurance that God is there waiting, always waiting, for me to listen.