the sound of silence

IMG_20130928_125422_resized“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”  ~ Mark Twain

“Speak only if it improves upon the silence.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

My favorite time of day is the pre-dawn stillness; the sun not yet peaking over the horizon.  I gaze out of my bedroom window, the mountains not yet visible; only twinkling lights of the city and valley beyond.   When I awaken, each morning, my furry feline purrs nearby.  It is her time, as well, as she dashes to and fro on our upstairs hallway; her collar bell tinkling in her wake.  My immediate response is to fling open my bedroom curtains; awaiting the sunrise.  The hubs fell asleep, once again, downstairs near the television, the youngest on the adjacent couch.  All was quiet as my household slept.

I found myself outdoors looking at my overgrown walkway.  My neighbor constantly gardens our shared property line and the walkway on our side looks garishly wild and untamed next to her pruned loveliness.  The red geraniums, planted two autumns ago, need care.  When we returned to our home, after evicting the tenant in the local courts for three arduous months, I couldn’t wait to reclaim our own space after renting for three years.  I dug in the following fall, my theme red, white and blue; severing sprinkler lines.  The hubs and I had already tackled the backyard when our vinyl fence was installed that spring; planting dwarf trees and vegetation.  We amended soil and installed sprinkler systems; excited to be back in our home.   We waited.

Three  autumns later I ponder what to do with this walkway.  I began to pull everything out to start anew; done with the geraniums.  My lack of interest in gardening reflected the difficult transitions our family journeyed through these past few years.  The hubs continued to garden, planting tomatoes that became overgrown and over-watered, horseradish, peppers, eggplant.  It had been a shared passion for the two of us but in recent years I was uninterested, busy growing children and adjusting to the husband who had been deployed for over 16 years.  The garden was neglected; taking a back seat to jam-packed schedules and the frenzied life of school and extra-curricular activities.  We were never home to cultivate it because we were too busy chasing other things.


As the sun rose in the east I pulled out plants and dug into soil, being careful to not sever the fixed sprinkler pipes.  Thoughts of my parents and in-laws came to mind; their green thumbs producing  an abundance of fruits and vegetables and trimmed verdant lawns.  I raked in a Zen-like state; trying to reproduce the lines of fine soil my father-in-law spends hours creating.  Back and forth I sifted; roots and rocks stuck within the steel tines as I bent to cast the stones away.  With the dirt clods I would sit on my haunches to crush them; a sense of satisfaction as the clumps disintegrated within my gloved hands.  I felt productive, my mind blissfully blank, in the silence of the morning.  Evidence of my household awakening eventually reached my ears: toilet lids clanking, the sounds of steps upon our stairs, computer start menus loading.  I smiled.  There was nothing on our schedule, this Saturday, and so I trod on, wondering where the new clods of dirt came from.  It seemed each time I thought I had tilled the soil fine; a large dirt clod would appear and I would stoop down to crush it between my fingers.

The buzz of my washer beckoned to change my load and I sighed.  I have just completed reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day, which I highly recommend, and was grateful for the mundane tasks of the day.  I chose to do laundry, versus yelling to my sons to do it this morning, just because.  Soon the day will come when my sons are away, the heaps of never-ending laundry being only the hubs and my own.  As I folded socks and made piles for each boy I considered the life I currently lead; the season of parenting adolescents.  My identity is the mom of three sons and wife; queen in my household of testosterone.  They are still within my reach, my sphere of influence, and I can consciously make the choice, each and every day, to cherish their idiosyncrasies and personalities; these children birthed from my own womb.


The past week raced by and the repetitive motion of sifting through soil allowed me time to process it.  Each evening was filled with activity: golf, birthdays, catechism.  But the moments I chose to snap, at the time, were mundane ones that got lost in the shuffle.  I had stood near the nurse at my eldest’s annual physical.  Do parents still go in the exam room with them?  I had noted several high schoolers entering the rooms, alone; mothers reading or absorbed on smart phones in the waiting room.  The nurse responded that, yes, I should go with my son until he is 15 or 16, as he quizzically looked up from the blood pressure machine.  It is official now that he recorded two inches taller and weighing more than myself; he’s outgrown me, physically.  I saw the weigh scale next to the baby one; remembering him at six pounds and ten ounces.  This was the son with various childhood ailments; a majority of my time in his first years in urgent care and emergency rooms.  He is now healthy and I was grateful; reminiscing of the infant so long ago.  When I returned home, that evening, the youngest again asked for This Little Piggy and proferred his foot upon my lap.   He remained there for forty more minutes; requesting to be scratched on his back, his belly, the underside of his foot.  Squirming and jutting with bones and elbows I tickled, going soft inside.  Soon, this too, will be a fleeting memory.

Admiring my, now sterile, walkway I sat in my backyard patio.  For two years the backyard looked barren with new plants; sticks with very few leaves.  I began to worry that the dwarf trees would never grow and when the sprinkler system underwent repair; the yards and gardens did not get watered.  Thus, it was a surprise, this past spring, when the trees stretched up to the sky; lone branches aimed towards the sun.  As I drank my tea that the hubs made last evening, I gazed upon our trees, surprised to find, finally, that they bore fruit.  This fall, there will be a harvest for the first time.


Just two weeks ago the hubs took the time to fix our sprinkler system during a heat wave.  The grass in our front yard was dying, the leaves on our trees and vegetation; wilted.  I am reacquainting myself with my inner gardener; finding the time to cultivate more than just children.  The hubs knows this is symbolic; understanding my lack of upkeep within our four walls has been with my dissatisfaction, until recently, with our life.  When the hubs was deployed it was gardening that helped me persevere the loneliness;  journaling with pictures each month in letters and later email, in our very first home thirteen years ago.  It reminded me of times past; of both of my parents, and his as well, bent over in their backyards; tending to their vegetables, shrubs and flowers.   In the peacefulness of daybreak I contemplated; accepting that I am changing.  Until recently I have been busy looking at the bigger things: dreams unfulfilled, desired material items, perfect children; that I lost the ability to appreciate the simple abundance already before me.



This morning I eventually made my entrance into our computer den; amongst the loud noises of PC gaming and music.   I had found the Simple Abundance book I had read in 1997; the year I chose to follow my heart as I traveled across the country to see if my, then fiance, was the one for me.   It was referenced in Katrina Kenison’s ordinary days and as I flipped to yesterday’s date; found the daily quote to be applicable to my life, right now.  As I handed it to my girlfriend, the year of 1997 flashed in my mind.  We almost didn’t make it; the hubs and I.  It was a tumultuous year and memories of my life, back then, reside in the pages of this book.  I remembered the comfort and joy I received in its daily reading and It remains one of my favorites.  Today, I thought of this as I sat with my younger sons in my local coffeehouse where they, now, know me by name.   Their name derives from their cold brew filtered through glass cylinders; the most caffeinated item on the menu.  The middle son asked, plaintively, How do they know your name?  Do you come here that often?  And how long do you sit here?

I returned to the silence, upstairs.  Saved in my drafts, on Outlook, is a mass email full of questions and attachments.  Last evening my hand hovered over the mouse to click SEND.  But I paused and considered.  Is this something I really want to do?  In my journey I am trying to control my impulsivity by weighing my options; contemplating in silence.  Several times, this past week, I have held my tongue amongst my: sons, family, friends.  I read an article, in our local newspaper and considered penning a letter to the editor regarding statements made by the administrator of a local charter school.  The lists and urge to prove the truthmy way is strong; the negotiator desiring this outcome.

“Things said or done long years ago, Or things I did not do or say, But thought that I might say or do, Weigh me down, and not a day, But something is recalled, My conscience or my vanity appalled.” ~ William Butler-Yeats

But in the end I have realized the truth of letting things go; some battles are better not waged.  I must give myself the opportunity to choose this option, more often.  In its choosing I clear head space from unwanted clutter, creating room for better opportunities. And so the email sits, unsent, in my drafts folder.  I will CTRL-ALT-DEL my hard drive and clear the cache; leaving room for things I want to retain; to remember.  And so I choose to remain silent; prudently holding my tongue unless asked.  The past transgressions are being let go and I do not have expectations.  I will live each day, each minute, with eyes wide open; looking for the things I have and to appreciate them.  I continue to count gifts.



#vibrant fall colors  #happy dog greetings #bright orange packages (Shutterfly) #journaling #book of poems, spine unbent; delivered #unexpected trips

Today I am to search for three gifts shy via Ann Voskamp’s printable to aid in counting 1000 gifts for 2013.  Today the gift I gave myself was to do whatever I wanted to do; not what I needed to do.  My day, thus ends, with a few things unexpected that I am grateful for.  As we headed to the registers, this afternoon, with our laden cart, others commented in passing.  I could hear the hubs answering how he is teaching our son to build his computer; the item he coveted for his birthday.  The small family party I did not want to throw, last weekend, was partially due to the cost since we budgeted and planned for this bigger ticket item.   When I notified my family, six days prior and very last minute; I explained my reasons why I kept things small.  I had not intended to solicit for funds for the purchase of this item; that being in poor taste.   I warned my son that most people probably wouldn’t come; to not expect anything.


What my son will remember MOST, from this milestone won’t be the computer brands and components he chose (though he spent a lot of time bookmarking and printing out these items).  He was astounded with the family’s appearance for his dinner and their generous monetary gifts to aid in his quest to build his personal computer.  I was stunned to discover that they had, somehow, decided to pool their funds.  We ended up at the hubs’ favorite yuppie burger joint where he created the firebeef burger above; an unexpected way to enjoy a family day.   The to-do lists will be tackled tomorrow.  As we rode home with full bellies I grinned in the dark.  It is these rare moments of contented silence; all five of us in our car without: screaming, hitting or arguing.  Peacefulness.   Hushed quiet.   Tranquility.


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