Snow days

iPhone photos 152

The joy of the first snowfall of the season is a distant and slightly unreal memory these days as our corner of the world universally acknowledges it is tired of winter and dreaming of spring.

We are weary of record snowfalls and cold temperatures that have brought us a season of altered plans, closed schools, stranded travelers, and indoor confinement. We have been inconvenienced, rescheduled, whipped about by the winds, and mesmerized by the crawl on our television screens alerting us to road conditions and cancellations.

Winter has its beauties, to be sure, but it sometimes has been a challenge to bring them into focus while digging our way out of the aftermath of the latest storm.

Still, as the snow has piled up, I have been conscious of a kind of acceptance that has settled in. Perhaps it is the fruit of living a little closer to nature as I have done since moving to “the country” 20 or so years ago. It’s as if the price of enjoying the beauty the natural world bestows on me is a humble bow to its inconveniences and a nod to its superiority.

Like everyone else, I am tired of the snow and the cold, but amid it all, I have found myself taking time to enjoy the season’s pleasures by looking out the window at a winged visitor resting on the edge of the bird bath, the rich colors unfolding in a sunrise or a sunset, or the pattern of shadows the trees cast on the snow.

In winter’s confinement and seclusion, I have not only seized these opportunities to pause and gaze outside, but to glance inward. Bereft of external distractions and supports like social gatherings oreven a daily walk, it has been tempting to turn on the radio or TV, check email, or look up something online. Not giving in to those distractions, though, forces me to do what most of us hate – stopping to face whatever is simmering under our cherished and blessedly diverting activity. Maybe that’s why everyone loves a snow day, but just one. After a day, not being able to get out and do what we normally do is no longer a novelty. It’s a nuisance. Stopping and being still means we have to think about what lies beneath. And most of us would rather not look. It’s as if we open the door of a closet we know needs cleaning and shut it quickly, dreading the very appearance of all that stuff that has to be sorted, disposed of, and reorganized.

Winter invites us to be quiet and still in a way that we simply cannot be during other seasons. If we accept the invitation, we may not like the look of all that stuff in the closet, but there may be a treasure in there somewhere, if only we will open the door and start sorting. We still have a month of winter left. Go ahead. Clean the closet.

The need for quiet

Some of us thrive in stillness and others in motion.

Whichever you are, I’d like to think that both of us share a need to be quiet. For the incessantly busy person, perhaps it is nothing more than an unidentified longing seeping through the adrenalin rush of activity. For those who flourish amid long stretches of silence, it is a known entity that leads us to insist on a life with spaces of rest from the race.

The thought that everyone requires or desires some degree of quiet, however, often eludes us in our noisy and busy world. As our milieu grows increasingly loud and obsessed with activity, quiet is a rare commodity. No longer are there pockets of peace in the places we frequent.  Medical waiting rooms, once havens of quiet where the only sound might be the pages of a magazine turning, now have blaring televisions, sometimes competing with music from an overhead sound system. Even the relative silence of libraries is interrupted by clicking keyboards.  Places of worship, too, have become stimulating, noisy spaces in their congregations’ quest to become relevant. And, when was the last time you saw a sign that said, “Quiet. Hospital Zone”?

As someone who spent the greater part of her career in a noisy, wired environment, I have come to value silence, stillness, and quiet.  It is out of this realization that QuietKeepers was born.  Over the last decade, changes of employment and residence have brought me to a place where I have had to learn to be more still. Through writing about what I call “quiet keeping,” I hope to share something of my own struggles to preserve the quiet and to capture the great beauty that flows from this practice.

I am beginning in a season of stillness, when it is quiet and cold – at least in the part of the world where I live. It is a time when the rhythms of nature urge us to be still, to read, to sit by fires, to watch and to listen.

Whether you are racing through life or moving at a slower pace intentionally or out of necessity, I invite you to join me as I explore ways to live a more quiet life in this frantic time rife with electronic media, activity, and distractions.  Among the topics I hope to develop are the importance of order, the use of technology, socializing and conversation, finding quiet spaces, making the home a serene place, and living in harmony with nature. Choosing to live quietly is no easy thing for those of us who are creatures of a culture of doing. It requires resistance and discipline, often minute-by-minute. It also benefits from support.  Perhaps we can keep the quiet together and learn to enjoy it more.