Maybe it’s because of the coming of the Silly Season but I’m thinking a lot about stillness at the moment. By stillness I don’t mean sitting cross-legged on the loungeroom floor humming ‘omm’. I mean a stillness that knocks us for a six. A couple of weeks ago I found myself driving away in total silence from a lunch with a famous writer at his country home as opposed to always – always – having music playing. I breathed deeply through my nostrils and watched the landscape on the other side of the windscreen. I felt sure that at some stage I’d press the PLAY button on the car’s CD player, but I didn’t, not for the entire hour and half it took me to drive home.
I’d found stillness, or it had found me.
More recently I was putting in some plants in the back yard when I realised that I’d sat down on the mulch and was listening to talkback radio coming from next door. It was a terribly narrow-minded shock-jock’s program; he was ‘discussing’ how Barack Obama was in great political difficulty. But there I was, as motionless as a concrete garden gnome. I’d found stillness, or it had found me.
Yesterday, I realised that I’d stopped walking through the loungeroom to watch The Old Lady of the House dreaming peacefully on her bed, a clucking sound coming from her mouth, a look of total contentment on her face.
We’d found stillness, or stillness had found us.
Why does stillness matter so much? Yes, it might be due to the stampeding onslaught of the Silly Season, except I’ve experienced 41 of these by now so surely I can cope. Or it could be that I’m just at an age where it’s customary to say ‘Heavens above, the world’s getting so fast these days’. Or it could be that time really is speeding up.
As we all have to inevitably conclude, when we’re kids a week is an eternity, as teenagers a summer holiday is of similar length. Now, however, as a middle-aged man an eternity is just not long enough, so a drive in the country without music is an anchor, a sit-down in the garden a deep connection to the earth, a pause to watch the dog sleep a tight grip onto something beautiful. As we all career headlong into the Greatest Stillness Ever.
(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, 18 December 2010. Many thanks to those who commented on an earlier post, called ‘Where stillness is’ – the on-line discussion fed into the writing of the piece for the newspaper, which is rather lovely, wouldn’t you say.)