season of stillness
not so many years ago, my writing room at this time of year took on north-pole proportions: spools of ribbon, bags of this and that to slip inside other bags or boxes, layers and layers of tissue papers, itty-bitty cards. lists abounded. i was a walking-talking maker and checker of lists.
not so much these days. and not because i’m scrooge.
simply because the sanctity of stillness is what i’m after in this season of deepening darkness. i punctate the night — the shroud of black that grows with every passing whirl around the sun — with my litany of sacramental simplicities.
the dawn is longer, blessedly, giving me more time to stitch those hours with the fine few invitations to bring in what’s hushed, what’s holy. i scoop my old tin coffee can with fat black seed, slide my toes into clunky boots, my arms in puffy sleeves. as the shock of morning cold splashes up against me, i fill my lungs with one quick gulp. then i march across the frozen stiff blades of grass, the mud that’s now succumbed into icy form, and perk my ears to hear the flutter of a wing, the rustling of a bough. i pause to scan the heavens, count the stars, spy the fraction of the moon. i’ve written a thousand times of how i make like i’m a farmer filling my trough, as i pour the seed in the feeder high above my head, stretching my arm far as it will stretch, raising up on tippy-toes, too. i’ve come to realize that the rush of pouring seed must be a call to all the birds, akin to “coffee’s on, come and get it!”
on the stillest mornings, the holiest ones, a cardinal or a junco might flutter in before i’ve stepped away. as if the gentle creature knows we’re in communion here.
perhaps i’ve learned, in my years — now three decades — of braiding jewish threads with catholic ones, to sanctify time, even more than place. abraham joshua heschel, whom i count among my constellation of north stars, writes: “judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year.” he goes on to draw out that point: “the Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the romans nor the germans were able to burn; a shrine that even apostasy cannot easily obliterate…”
point, well taken. point, deeply taken.
i consecrate the holy hours — the ones of dawn and dusk and deepest night.
and so, this season is no longer a mad dash, but a countercultural adventure in stitching in stillness. in simply kindling light, one by one, an arithmetic of brightening, night after night, as both menorah and advent wreath burn against the darkness. our house is not filled with shiny boxes. santa’s list is not an annual exercise in accumulation. hanukkah at our house is brisket + latkes + jelly-filled donuts on the first night, candles and dreidels each night after that.
year by year, i dial down the noise, and amplify the hush that ushers in the stillness.
how do you consecrate your holy hours?
I so love this!! Thank you for sharing your beautiful words😘
thank you, sweet angel, for reading them……
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I love the phrase “sacramental simplicities.” We’ve tried to do that over the years, probably not as successfully as you, but we are working on it. One year, we followed an internet trend and gave “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read” to each child. This year, it will be one gift for each of our not-so-little-ones plus a Christmas stocking, of course!
i’m all for one! plus those little things that just seem to leap into your lap as you’re wandering through Christmasville. xoxoxo which, i suppose, is why my attention over the years has, like you, shifted to the wonders of the stocking, where little unexpected delights can slide in so quietly……
Stitching in stillness…. Ahhhhh. I love being countercultural with you. Thank you for sharing the radiance that is you. xoxo
i love that we are a convention of counterculturals over here at the chair. xoxox
Thank you, dear one. As I drove to work in the dark this morning at 6:50, I hated that sunrise wasn’t until 7:12. Thanks to you, on Monday, I will enjoy the dark before dawn, the quiet stillness of the day….the empty parking lot. Your words are a thing of beauty and reflection. Happy Hanukkah to all of you.
i thought of you, especially, as i sat down here in the dark on a saturday morning, watching the shadows begin to shift, and now the world’s exposed in living daylight!
happy blessed hanukkah, sweetheart! (p.s. did you see reference a week or so ago, to some new movement to change the spelling of Hanukkah, to get rid of the H and go with X as that more accurately captures both the Hebrew letter that actually begins the word, and the guttural sound? and of course now i cannot find the link. saw it on twitter….)
Barbara, I”m holding on to your words “season of stillness.” May it be so!
I am (in large part due to your written encouragement in “Slowing Time” working hard on welcoming the season of stillness. Each day I rise at 5 for my first cups of coffee in front of our Christmas tree. Silent house, brightened only by the lights on said tree. I take the time to pull up a chair, I’m re-reading “Slowing Time”, write cards/letters, and often just gaze at the tree. It’s the silence that soothes me this time of year. The silence that reminds me what this season is all about. It’s a true gift. Thanks for another lovely post & Happy Hanukkah to you & your family! (Saw your comment above- I’ve always been curious about the varying spellings of the Festival of Lights- and worry that I’m using the wrong one. Sounds like there might be another one coming, maybe I’ll start using it?!?
just reading this on, yes, a quiet sunday morning. just-home-from-the-lot tree (alas, i wish i’d trekked to the woods rather than the muddy lot not far from my house….) plugged in, and half aglow (a trip to the hardware store is on the docket for today, to replace the strands that have gone kerplunk over their hiatus). big red mug is beside me. the birds are awaiting their morning feast. and the notion that there’s another mama stirring in the deep and blessed dawn melts me. i hope this envelope of stillness at the start of your day carries you through till you plop back onto your pillow……xoxox