There’s a more than a little irony in the immediate cacophony of internal noise that is triggered by the word ‘quiet’. I hear my dad’s ‘story voice’ reciting Merton’s When we Two Parted‘ against a background hum of ‘Silence is Golden’. A memory of a most beautiful place stirs sleepily and I feel the haze of Burgundy sunshine, lagoon like pools and the muffled sounds of people’s reflection at The Source.
Quiet. A concept known to all. Heralded as a panacea, a state of the soul, a level of consciousness, a discipline, a practice, a revealer, a healer, a sedative.
Yet. Quiet. Used as a weapon, a punishment, a cop out, an ally, an accomplice, a collusion.
Quiet. The absence of noise, yet, the stillness within sounds.
A poet like Dickinson has the enviable ability to load a verse with meaning so deep and so heavy you wonder how such simple words can bear the weight.. Her gatherings of commonplace words so often made to shine by their careful ordering, carry a grief so weighty you wonder the words don’t crumble beneath the despair.
This simple little verse almost sags in the middle with the enormity of her existential reflection!
I wanted to put it out there because I think it’s something that every one of needs to have asked and explored. Not in a naval gazing way, more in a back-of-the-mind type of way.
Because I think it’s sometimes good to widen my frame of reference. To briefly place my life on the time / space continuum. It’s sometimes good to feel humbled by the stars. To put my pain and suffering in the context of world history.
And sometimes, it’s good to rethink the areas of my life I can control; and the areas that I can’t. Personally I find it useful to remember that life is short, and wanting control over something doesn’t grant me the right to it. More than that, I know that there are things WITHIN my power, that I need to take control of, rather than deny or disown.
THAT is the hard thing. That’s where Dickinson’s innocent thought is a smack in the face!
Many of us have a mental stash of words we consider ‘beautiful’; words which may sound melodic as they roll round our mouths, hiss gently through our teeth or huff breathily in a whisper. And although not always the case, it seems only right, in the order of all things literary, that such words carry beauty in their meaning.
Giving examples of this is risky, because one person’s sense of audible beauty is very different to that of another, but I like the word ‘mellifluous’ for its melody, ‘mercurial’ for the way it curls in my mouth, and ‘simplicity’ for its gentleness. I also like the softness of ‘dissonance’, although this sits a little uncomfortably in the ‘lovely word’ camp because the slightly negative meaning isn’t reflected by the sound.
Although you might be forgiven for wondering, I really don’t mean to write An Idiot’s Guide to Phonology. Rather, I wanted to write about the sibilance in the word ‘Transience’, the loveliness of its meaning…
and the the poetic beauty of April and Cherry Blossom
and the way it makes my heart unfold
and rise to meet the brief and fragile blush of Spring’s confetti.
I wanted to write about the awe that cleans the very base of my lungs as I stand
beneath the Cherry trees and breathe air sweetened by the blooms.
The Japanese have had it right for centuries, taking the Cherry blossom, or ‘Sakura’, as a symbol of impermanence. a metaphor for the transience of life.
I wanted to write about how short life really is. How, in the context of millions of years, our lives are so small, so frail, so quick.
And I think it’s good to reflect on this. Not to dwell on it, or make morbidity our mind’s echo; but to stop every now and then and let our awareness rest on the blossom of the Cherry Tree and the beautiful fullness of its brief show.
I came across this brilliant piece of art as I was walking down one of the streets of the Gloucester Road in Bristol. The idea of The Creation of Adam has been used alongside a short poem and a dedication to the artist’s late father.