being still

curious thing this december, more than ever, it is the stillness that speaks to me. that i seek. that some days i grope toward as if a blind one making my way through the woods on nothing more than the steadiness of my footsteps and the fine-grained whorl of my fingertips rubbing up against the underbrush, telling me i’ve lost my way.

it is as if the deep dark stillness itself is divining me toward home.

which, of course, it is. it always is.

oh, there’s noise all right this december. clanging like a cymbal in my ear, the squawking from the news box, the screeching of the brakes, the sound of plain old money gurgling down the drain.

but i am–in my best moments–pushing it away.

oh, i take it in in stiff long drinks–the news, the noise, the grave distractions–but then i do odd things: i lift the blinds at night so i can watch the snowflakes tumbling. i wind the clock and listen to its mesmerizing tick and tock. i sit, nose pressed to frosty pane of glass, and watch the scarlet papa cardinal peck at berries on the bough.

i am practicing the art of being still.

stillness, when you look for it, is never far away, and not too hard to grasp.

i find, though, it takes a dose of concentration. and sometimes a stern reminder; i mumble to myself, be still now. but then i find my steps determined.

just the other night, my heart most surely trampled, i climbed the ladder to the attic, pulled down the box of christmas treasures, the ones that spark the eyes of my little one, my little one who could not care about bankruptcies and buyouts–though he is sadly quite abreast on both.

it is advent time for my little one, and so it is advent for me. it is the counting-down time, the something-coming time of darkest winter. and, in my good spells, i am deeply, urgently, savoring the getting there.

i am hauling out my usual armament of soothers and elixirs. i simmer spices on the stove. i scatter corn on drifts of snow. i kindle candle flame. crank soulful christmas tunes. tiptoe down the stairs in deep quietude of night, and stumble onto moonlight making magic out of blue-white undulations in the yard.

i am even dropping to my knees, or curling up in bed with incantations on my lips. they carry me to sleep some nights; what better lullabye?

i am ever thankful this december for the one bright side to all the downturn: there will be little shopping this year. no running here to there.

i will simply look the ones i love squarely in the eye. i will tell them how deeply and dearly i depend on their presence in my every blessed day.

and among the ones i love there will be the cheery fellow who drives the bus that hauls my little one to school, the pink-haired checker at the grocery store who always makes me laugh, the neighbors who every time i ask open their door and let my little one come in to play.

there are the voices faraway, the ones who call and calm, the steady ones, the ones who make me laugh. the one who calls merely to “sit with” me on a night when she guesses i just might need some sitting.

it is an advent this year of simple things: there is a ring of candles on the kitchen table, one new one lit each and every week, till at december’s peak there will be a rising cloud of incandescence as we join our hands and pray.

there is a string of red-plaid pockets, each one numbered, 1 to 24, strung from one window to another, and every single morning, my little one rushes down the stairs to find the sweet tucked there inside the number of the day.

it is, as it so often is, my littlest one who softens me, who stirs me back to stillness, who insists we not forget to give the twisty fir its drink. who takes me by the hand so i don’t crash and break. who asks his big wise brother if he too “checked advent,” (meaning did he yet dig out his daily dose of duly-numbered sweet).

it is, nearly as deeply, the thick meringue of snow bending all the branches. it is the flash of scarlet feather at the window. it is the sound of orange peel simmering. and the tinkling of the spoon scraping at the bottom of the cocoa-filled mug.

these are the things that make for stillness, or rather are the keys on the ring that might unlock it after all.

it is, in fact, the heart, the soul, that are the vessels of pure true stillness: those chambers deep inside us that allow for the holy to unfold. the birthing rooms, perhaps, of our most essential stirrings.

to be at one with all that matters. to begin the pulse-beat there where the quiet settles in and the knowing reigns.

it is, yes, in the stillness that the sacred comes.

and this december, more than ever, i am blessed to find it’s that, simply surely that, that is carrying me through this tangled woods.

i type this in the interlude between the madness of this week. and i wonder how you too seek stillness. do you hunger for it? do you find yourself distracted by the worldly buzz? do you get lost in the woods sometimes? or have you forged a steady path to that place that soothes you?
in two days, the chair turns two. i’ll be back to mark the day. as always, bless you for pulling up your chair…