As the snow continued to fall last week and we experienced more snow here on the coast than I ever remember, I kept going outside to experience the wondrous and white world growing on trees and fences, benches and stones. Even the bee hives were sporting white puffy and voluminous caps. Everything was wearing “white.”
In the white wonderland i recognized a silence I remembered as a child. Growing up in Ontario we would pray for “snow days” when we could have the day off school and head outside into the huge piles of snow that had grown overnight. The trudge of our snow boots would break the silence that seemed to spread with the snow like a blanket all around us. “Shhhhhhhhhhhhh,” my friends and i would call to each other and then stop walking and stand listening.
The silence of snow was different than any silence I have ever encountered.
A different silence? What does this mean? What is the experience of different silences?Is there such a thing?
In John O’Donohue’s book on the Four Elements he speaks beautifully to these different silences. Here is a short version – check out his book for deeper notes.
1. silence underneath and between words
2. awkward or embarrassed silence / tension
3. silence beyond words – unity, intimacy and belonging
4. silence of the animal world – interiority at one with itself, a seamless self presence
5. silence of one’s own presence – the silence that lived in the space one now occupies before one came to earth
6. silence of absence – silence of death/final absence – each deceased animal and human (I would say tree and stone, etc.) leaves behind them
When I discovered this list, I became curious about what the experience would be with each. This curiosity has lead to a wonderful exploration that seems limitless in scope and infinite in the capacity for discovering other forms of silence.
I often stand on the deck overlooking the pasture to listen and feel into the silence of the horses. Again, the silence is like no other.
And then, sometimes when i am listening to the words of a friend, I also include that I am listening to the unique silence they are occupying by their presence here at this time.
When this card, that became the cover for the packaging of Question Everything, a deck of inquiry, came into creation, through several hands as I recall, I loved it’s simplicity and invitation to the silence of nature as well as people.
The question came from the work of Angeles Arrien’s in The Four Fold Way (angelesarrien.com) where she speaks to the four questions that one might be asked in some land based cultures if one was experiencing malaise or “soul loss”.
And you, When did you stop being comfortable with silence?