Fall leaves with raindrops

Fall leaves with raindrops

How does one respond, react to tragedy?  Life seems full of little daily tragedies that are all big to someone.  And then there are those tragedies of such magnitude that any response, any gesture, can feel futile or frivolous.  Maybe we need to just stop our tendencies to respond so quickly.  Maybe we just need to sit, in silence, and hold the sorrow without reacting.

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.


Silence and Solitude

July 25, 2010

White daisies

“When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop, sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign, is solitude.”
     — William Wordsworth

“In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence, the second listening, the third remembering, the fourth practicing, the fifth teaching others.”
     — Rabbi Shlomo ibn Gabirol

Greet the Light

July 7, 2010

“My grandmother used to tell me that as you sat in Quaker silence you were to go inside to greet the light.”
     — James Turrell, artist

"Skyscape" by James Turrell

Contemplating blue in Skyscape at the Henry Art Gallery

Last week my friend Carol and I took advantage of First Thursday’s free admission to the Henry Art Gallery on the University of Washington campus.  My favorite part was an oval, church-like space called Skyscape by the artist James Turrell.  It was a serene spot to look up and contemplate a patch of blue.

“The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better.”
     — Thomas Carlyle

“Blue color is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight.”
     — John Ruskin

The Reading Room at Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus

“The library is often the place where you can find the spirit of the monk:  in silence, the lustre of old woodwork, the smell of ageing paper, reading, retreat from the world, rules and authorities, tradition, volumes of wisdom, catalogues for contemplation.”
     — Thomas Moore, Meditations

While I was on the University of Washington campus viewing the cherry blossoms, I stopped by Suzzallo Library just to experience the hallowed atmosphere of one of my favorite libraries.  I suppose that it brings a taste of Hogwarts to the current generation of undergraduate students, who grew up with the Harry Potter novels!


Stairway to the second floor Reading Room, Suzzallo Library

Softly lit staircase, Suzzallo Library

Church-like ambience of the Suzzallo Reading Room

Grillwork, Suzzallo Library

Winter Reading

January 23, 2010

My stack of books for winter reading

The landscape of my mind, as reflected in the books I’m currently reading, seems to mirror the winter outside.  For me, it’s a time for introspection. I seem drawn to books about people living in solitude and silence.

I especially enjoyed Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence about her experiences living apart in the country.  She speaks to a growing need for silence and solitude in her life as she ages.  I found the book quite fascinating.  I may have some hermit tendencies myself.