Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, wrote the following lines. The title of the poem is Praying.
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
In the last few weeks, sheltered at home, there have been lots of hours of silence. Silence when I was reading. Silence when I was praying, praying silently and with my inner voice.
There are city streets that are wreathed in silence and there have been hours upon hours where silence has surrounded otherwise busy streets and places where we once gathered in groups to eat and drink and celebrate.
COVID-19 has given us a gift. It is a gigantic pause. The pause is something that we can use to listen to the silence. Listening to the silence gives us an opportunity to pray and in praying we give thanks “and a silence in which another voice may speak.”
Sometimes silence is deafening. It overwhelms us. I remember in deep winter being alone a long way from the nearest road, standing in a stand of pines, snow over a foot deep, listening. What I heard were waves of silence. Each wave washed over me and each wave grew in intensity until the silence was so loud it frightened me. The wonder of silence in that moment was like a yogi’s cleansing breath and a monk’s spiritual awareness. I’ll never forget that moment of silence, listening amongst the pines to that deep and throbbing sound that was not sound at all.
Over the years I have returned to moments of silence to refresh and focus my thoughts and my inner being. It is not a religious truth but a human need for those moments of silence that give us an understanding of our own humanity, our relationship to each other, and our relationship to creation.
So, let’s give thanks for the silence and the focused prayer and the wonder that comes when “another voice may speak.”
If you want, write about the silence.