Solitude & Silence
Ravenrock is a ranch property in New Mexico where I teach retreat but also spend time in solitude. It is quiet, pristine canyon and rock rim land where I’ve put up a barn to work and be.
September slips away unmarked by achievements or conversation. I’ve been at Ravenrock in solitude for ten days, growing more and more silent. The beginning was difficult. Now, suddenly, it isn’t. I do the projects I had set up to protect myself, to soothe my fears and solace my grief, but more and more pass through the activity as if it was soft and edgeless as fog. The activities protect but also, like fog, have hidden Earth and its high blue canopy. It isn’t the action of the activity––the lifting and putting and schlepping—which has been troubling me. It is the hooks inside that are bustling, driving, gibbering promises of reward and merit. The action itself is motion through which I breathe the day in and out, flex my muscles in gravity, hear the gravel crunch or the grass crack as I move from the door to the tree. Silence and solitude pull a drain plug in my nervous system; motivations and justifications dribble out. Some goals were complete. Some were habitual.
Piles of dirt and gravel and construction wood and branches collecting against the junipers ringing the Barn’s yard stay where they’ve been left, growing into visual fixtures. Part of this year’s contours. All my passion to hump these to unspotted spots is gone. I pause in my mania for perfection, which kept me dissatisfied and working for the past five years (or perhaps for my whole life.) I pause. I noticed that the pause feels less temporary, as if over the years I’ve gotten more capable of suspending my internal whip hand. “Hold up!” And I stop the carriage that has been barreling forward, forward, forward, moving more often than not in a frenzy of misdirection. I hold up, get out, sit by the road or wander a little ways off on foot. When, after a while, I return to the carriage, I can’t remember what was so compelling that I needed to race blindly toward it. Actually, I remember, but it is no longer important.
I read somewhere, just two days ago, that silence and solitude are a benevolent brain blessing (lots of brain studies, etc.) and now I say, “Okay.” Our deep shifts often turn on such a small turning. Reminders…We turn to face toward what we have been assiduously avoiding. I felt my body had been turning then finally my head, with its eyes and decisions, came around to join the rest of me. When I say I won’t be afraid of nothing-ness and of aimlessness, silence and solitude unplug me. I’m empty and quiet. I fill up with tea and soup and whatever the ravens have for me as they circle and swoop low over where I sit on the Canyon Rim. Their friendliness assures me that in their glossy blue-black cloaks they keep a little notebook of my doings. Where I stand. Where I walk. Where I sit. Which hat I’m wearing. I see myself as they see me, a solitary woman who waves at birds.
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