“We are each surrounded by an enormous silence that can be a blessing and a help to us, but from which we often turn away in dread and fear, a silence in which the skein of reality is knitted and unraveled to be knit again, in which the perspective of a work or a life or a relationship can be enlarged and enriched. Silence is like a cradle holding our endeavors, our will and our understanding in ways that allow them to grow and thrive; a cultivated and silent spaciousness sustains us and at the same time connects us to larger worlds that, in the busyness of our daily struggle to achieve, we have yet to investigate. Silence is fearful exactly because in its spacious depths lies both the soul’s sense of rest and its possible break for freedom.”
Taken from Adapted from Crossing the Unknown Sea:Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by David Whyte
If I am carving out silence right now. I am enjoying the patterns of light creating joyful ghosts of illumination on the piano in my living room that the sun in companionship with the remnant storm are making. I am aware of a limited time set up to sit in this silent spaciousness. Awareness feels so important. So does gratitude. I am aware of the green statue sitting across from me- a long-haired lady also being touched by the sunlight, her candle holder glowing this time, not with fire, but with light. I am aware of the shimmering, sizzling shadows created by the shivering tree branches outside.
I am also aware of the potential. A guitar sitting in the corner. A notebook of songs. There is a sacredness here.in the silence. Is this what life is all about?
For this moment, yes. I guess each moment is crafted differently, in its own holiness. I am in the bowl of my living room. A hollow of holiness. It is a living sculpture where light can dance with shadow. It is a shadow box. It is a diorama. And I am in it. I am a living sculpture sitting and noticing the things that dance and play on this stage. Sometimes I will dance, and sometimes I will watch, eyes glowing, heart leaping in the audience. And yet, I still get to be a part of it all. Wherever I bring myself, there I am. The diorama of the day.
I was at a folk museum in Santa Fe, where each diorama held a cluster of clay figures that captured a life scene from whatever distant land they were carried from: an old church in Peru with all of its doll-like mud-people gathered in finely painted array, a conclave of Portuguese dolls with sad eyes themselves the shape of tears and dripping earlobes, an old fashioned American family, placed sterilely in the white-slick compartments of kitchen or bedroom, all together, all alone. I wanted to crawl up into each container and know what it was like to be made of Peruvian soil, under a turquoise sky next to my church-going compadres, or selling plump rounds of fruit with the scarved carved women in the liminal spaces of the retablo from Mexico. I even tried to project myself inside the glass. Imagine my spirit shrinking to 3-inch size so I could feel the fellow adobe arms against my own, or look up and hear the tinkle of the tiny bell way up inside the marzipan-like churches.
And then I thought, I wonder if that’s what Someone was thinking when the diorama of the earth was set in place, saying quietly, “I wonder what it would be like to be clay? What if I could shrink myself into a million, a billion tiny people and feel the blazing Oaxacan sun on the melt of my skin, or sample the rum soaked wedding cake, as my heart is flooded with joy and anticipation of life lived together?” I wonder if that Someone really did it? Stared into this place, gawking with desire, and entered the rising clay- the little lumps forming forth into eyes, noses, and roundabout curves. I wonder if this is all an amazing experiment- an art project, where we are he and she are we and We get to dance and cry and eat and become the clay of Love.
I am gazing at a picture of a beautiful mandala made entirely of stones. Each one is painted differently. Some with curly fronds, others with symmetrical floral knots, but all silhouettes of the natural world. The center is a lacy confection of white designs feathered onto a brown rock, reminiscent of gingerbread. I don’t usually think of mandalas this way. Rock and stone. Silhouettes and gingerbread. I usually see painted glowing swirls of geometrics, looking luminous and celestial on a shaving of paper or a sheet of canvas. But I look at this one and think, “why not?” What does the mandala of my soul look like? What illumination do the interiors create for me and others at this moment? Is it a gingerbread stone, bringing complexity and joy all at once to my own self, then fingering them out through gifts of awareness of beauty to those around me? Is mine a windy labyrinth where trust is illuminated only one footstep at a time, but you can hear the pulse and voice of birdsong over the twisting walls, radiating both toward and away from me? Is it a field of fallen leaves creating an overlapping pattern of both life and death, beginnings and endings, sugar maple red, and rich compost brown, delicately trailing paths of newness and rebirthing all around?
Today, at 48 years old, I am dressing up. Am I going to a Halloween party? Do I have school aged children to promenade with in all my splendor door to door for trick or treating? No and no. I choose to dress up on the eve of the Day of the Dead to celebrate the Day of the Living. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do respect, even enjoy the Day of the Dead. It is an opportunity for families to celebrate the lives of those who have passed and even invite them to sit down for another kind of spirit, a drink, and a calaveras poem recitation to remember and commemorate that person’s unique quirky contribution to the world. And, just as the Aztecs once asked their progeny not to cry on this day, so that the spirits of their loved ones didn’t slip on their way home, so I, too, choose not to cry (just for today!), but to laugh. And if tears come from too many giggles, well, perhaps the departed will just have to slide around a bit and giggle as they try to keep their balance. Today I choose to dance on the threshold. To let my shadow side give me a whirl on the masquerade floor and perhaps give me a tickle under my arms. To relish the gifts of life as we come face to face with the mysteries of death. Today, as a citizen of the living, I choose to live!