hearing silence

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During the week of 16 – 20 March 2020, we were just getting used to the announcement the previous weekend that anyone entering the country would be required to self-isolate for 14 days. It seemed to have the immediate effect of reducing the amount of traffic on the roads, as if everyone had started to keep their heads down, hoping this virus would pass them by.

On Wednesday 18 March, I was talking with a dear friend, and confessed I’d been feeling very strange.

“It’s so silent… it’s as if I can hear it… it’s not just that there’s so little traffic… it’s something more than that. It’s as if I can hear silence…”

And I discovered, she felt the same.

We both felt there wasn’t just less background noise from the lack of traffic, but that even the birds were quiet. As if they’d moved further away. And there was more than this.

“I can hear the silence… as if it’s a presence, a being in its own right. It’s like a psychic, spiritual silence, something we’re not usually aware of.”

It was as if the silence was something we could feel, a weight we could sense. As we attempted to explain what we were feeling, we decided it felt eerie, almost foreboding, as if something else was coming. We talked of it as a psychic silence. That it felt like something beyond this material world, something spiritual. We struggled to find the right word to describe what we were feeling. Perhaps there isn’t one.

Then while talking about this with two other close friends shared that they had noticed strange things involving animals – frogs falling silent, cows clustering together.

It was all starting to feel very unsettling.

Perhaps we had just started to pay attention.
We were noticing the absence of sound.
We were hearing silence.

And perhaps what we were sensing was the sheer enormity and power of the natural world, which our society has managed to separate us from for so long. As if we had suddenly stepped off a structured path and into a forest, and were struck by the changes in sound and smell, of temperature.

I’d felt that I was sensing silence as if it was a weight, something heavy and ominous.

Perhaps the screen of the modern world had lifted, and revealed the ripe, rich, wild world just beyond the doorstep. Not preparing to take over, and not waiting for me to me to cross over, but purely alive and present.

Perhaps what I sensed was the deep, slow heartbeat of the land.

 

The following Monday, it was announced that Aotearoa/New Zealand would go into lockdown at 11.59pm 25 March for four weeks. I discovered that although nervous, I felt relieved.

And now that we’re a few days in, I’m finding this period of isolation is giving me the opportunity to slow my own rhythms, to synchronize my blood and breathing with the earth.

The silence?

It was the lack of traffic I was noticing. Fewer cars, hardly any planes.

And the birds?

I hear them. They were always there, in the trees around my house.
It was my listening, my attention that was struggling to adjust to absence.

I have the chance now to fill my ears with every other sound around me.

bird-call, rain, wind
the soft tread of the cat as he crosses the room
the tremor of a leaf
the expectance between heartbeats
the promise of a held breath
the weight of silence
anticipation, abundance, potential

 

©griffin2020

February 2019

filling the space,

every window shows your face,

your multitudes, your bright insistence

February calendar post at last!!

Why has it taken so long – no idea – beyond printer not working, going back to work after summer holiday, and putting my time into painting.

Anyway – here ‘tis. This is my world, my green view – this is what I see if I feel like a spot of daydreaming.

And now that the cicadas have come out in force at last, I wonder if a big shiny insect might have been a better image. Still – they need the trees and trust me – they are all over these.

August

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after the long winter

when the shadows linger

we begin to see movement

 

Earlier this month I was distracted by a whale in the harbour, planets in alignment and the lunar eclipse – so distracted that I wasn’t aware of the turning of the month, calendar time was lost on me.

So now we’re in August – the days are still short with dark mornings and dark nights – but the plants know spring is coming. New shoots are forming, some plants already flowering, and birds are back in the garden.

There’s a restlessness in me after so much time spent inside. I find myself moving outside – even in the dark – in the rain – my lungs are opening to the freshness in the air.

summer prayer

out of time / out of place

drenched in sun
heat soaks into skin
warms the blood, reaches bone
flesh swells, hair bleaches

this is no drying, endangering fire
this is lifeforce
entering, awakening

days of sun repeat

beginning to trust
each night will turn to light and heat
blue sky endless
breeze just enough to cool the skin

fat bees fly past, heavy with pollen
cicadas call, birds call
sheep call and answer

the wind finds voice
whispering through tall, pale gum trees

my silence and life’s song
under the summer sun

out of time / out of place

tuning in to nature
ready to respond
ready to become
let the wind move
through me
find your voice
in me

I am open
to the world’s will
and every bug and bird
and bud and tree
and river, rock, and mountain
move in me.

©clairegriffin2017

This was written just after xmas when staying at an old farmhouse for a few days over the summer in 2011. I had been lying out in the sun, reading a book on journaling, in that state when you’re searching for something but you don’t know what it is. I was looking outside myself – I hadn’t yet learnt to look within – but I was getting closer…

This is one of those poems that came very quickly – all except one word. I was stuck on the word that needed to sit after ‘rock’. I puzzled over this off and on – then left it for ages. Its interesting that its now (after settling on Rimutaka for my mihi just a couple of weeks ago – see the previous poem “the heart of this hill”) that mountain seems to fit perfectly. 

Either just before or after I wrote this, I went for a walk along the dusty gravel road – and as I walked round the bend that led slightly uphill – I had a sense of, a desire for, everything to be white. Almost the sense of wedding the land – sinking into, and becoming one with, the land around me. I remember thinking that if the sun was to vapourise me in that very moment – I would be content.

27 December 2011 – completed 16 September 2017.

the heart of this hill

I drove today
through rain and fog
over the Rimutaka Hill
to see my father

years earlier, my mother rode a train
through the heart of this hill
heading south
taking me away
from the place I was born

every time, driving back over this hill
I feel as though I am trying
to mend a wound I didn’t make

and I wonder, how many times
will I need to cross back and forth
before the edges are stitched together

but there will always be a tear in the fabric of time
I cannot weave a cloak long enough and wide enough 
to wrap around this hill

all I can do is keep coming back
keep crossing over

©clairegriffin2017

torn apart

12.02am was a lesson in humility
who am I
to think the earth
could feel my pain
and make the heavens
weep with me

she is not a reflection of my emotions
she is her own sovereign being
and last night she tore herself apart

there is a fury
she has held in check
grief she has suppressed
pain she has denied

last night
all was unleashed
pent up energy released
her heart broken open
and spread before us

there is a madness in her rage
she rends her clothes
and tears her hair
she breaks her own body
and lays it at our feet
she has become a distorted, twisted thing

my beautiful country
you have torn yourself apart
what are you telling me?

we may be homeless
she is broken
we may be confused
she is broken
we may be distraught
she is broken

it may be her only way
to shake free from us

my beautiful country
you have torn yourself apart
what are you telling me?

she has called on her power
the wild pulse of life
to tear open her own skin
to bleed rivers enough
to flood the land
and lay bare the truth

she is not gentle
she is not kind
she is a wild thing
who tolerates us

she is more Lillith than Eve
she is Papatuanuku grieving still for Rangi
she is Persephone rising after slaughtering Hades
she is Mis raging in the wilderness

she is telling us
she owns her body
she owns her pain
and she can cast us off
in a heartbeat

©Claire Griffin 2016

And then came this… just when I was in the heady space of imagining the significance of a rare astronomical event… On 14 November a 7.8 earthquake hit.

I had to face my sentimental wishful thinking, my need to personify the earth as a beneficent mother. She is not a reflection of my emotions. She is her own sovereign being, and this morning she tore herself apart.

The previous poem was put on hold, and this seemed so much more appropriate.

broken glass

 

today was a stormy day of the heart
needing to move, to put distance
between my heart, my soul
and my daily life

standing on the rocky edge
looking out to sea
watching the waves coming
inexorably into shore

rock pools beckoned and I walked further out
looking through still water with a surface like glass
starfish and sea lettuce, neptune’s necklace and limpets
patiently waiting for the incoming tide

but the calm waters didn’t match
the turmoil I felt
the waves of emotions
needed something stronger

when sudden unexpected rain
struck intensely from behind
choosing not to run, I was drenched in seconds
standing still, with one hand holding back my hair

I stood and watched
as heavy rain broke the surface
all life beneath now an impressionist’s dream
then, just as quickly, rain stops and ripples spread and settle

when the liquid glass shattered
I drank the fragments
they cut through anger to release the tension
touching the wet rocks, I am centred in this turbulent landscape

I am the rain, the rocks, the fragile sea-life
I am the squally wind
heart-settled, soul-free

I watch the sea birds
ride the updrafts
and wish I had wings

©Claire Griffin 2016

Reading Tyler’s poem “Drop by drop” and discovering the lines
“All my worries fall away, I am a storm cloud”.
They seemed to express perfectly how I was feeling today.
Entering the landscape always helps me recover equilibrium,
but it took becoming part of the storm for it to work today.
The land reflected my feelings back to me,
and then I was able to release them.
Thanks for the inspiration Tyler 🙂
https://tylerpedersen02.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/drop-by-drop/