DAVID HERBERT wrote chitter-chatter yesterday. I loved his post, not least for the reference to Lark Rise to Candleford and the lovely winning entry to the said Candleford’s recent poetry competition. But I think that David and I have both been reaching out, more and more over the years, to the joys of silence. Neither of us are strangers to the joys of conversation. Neither of us are ostriches, and our daily working lives see us processing reams of information cheerfully enough. But, but, but … the wisdom David alluded to in Lark Rise (soon to be challenged by the advent of the railway) and – I would say – the equally enchanting Cranford (also soon to be challenged by the advent of the railway) is something we yearn for in our day. Anne Morrow Lindbergh spent weeks alone at the shore one summer. And I’m thinking tonight of her Gift from the Sea:
We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends, and movies should fail, there is still the radio or television to fill up the void. Even day-dreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.
My grandmother died well into her nineties. Her last years were not easy. Poor circulation led to the loss of both her legs and a high degree of dependency on others, yet I truly believe that she died happy. Long confined to a wheelchair in a sunny nursing home room, I would visit her there, arriving to find her dear head bent over a book. My heart used to leap with anguish about her littleness and frailty. And its thumping was always stilled with words like these:
The Church has given me the greatest of the gifts I thank God for dear. Family, of course, at home, and in the wider world. And then I think of how she taught me to be silent. And then of how she taught me to read. And having a strong sense of family, and having learned to be silent, and having learned to read, I have, by and by, learned to pray. And so I am happy. Here, anywhere, with or without company, with whatever comes my way. – Norah Keating
Like Anne Morrow Lindbergh alone on the beach, planting dream blossoms, so my long dead grandmother even now stills my heart’s thumping, still quietens anguish, still teaches me to love, to be silent, to read … and by and by to pray. Still, I think David might say, my quiet and Grace-filled grandmother points me to ways of wisdom.