Once, I stood on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, NC – the town where I spent the years of my childhood – and listened. Snow and ice had shut down the Parkway itself, but we had driven up to the gate and gotten out, following my desire to be in the air that had so given me joy as a child.
On Sunday afternoons, my family often drove up to that parkway and had a picnic – sometimes with friends, sometimes just the four of us. We’d walk the trails near the picnic areas, or my brother and I would tumble over the giant rocks there, never aware that we were doing something for which there was a term – “bouldering.” Those afternoons still hold a glowing place in my memory – they were the days on which I had no responsibility, which was a gift for someone whose sense of responsibility came with her first breath of oxygen.
So here I was, a woman in her 20s, back on this road, trying to regain that joy . . . . I stood as still as possible and listened. The crackle of trees swaying. The hum of crisp air against the inside of my lungs. I could have stood there all day in the silence of nature. But he was ready to go . . . as my first husband would always be, it turns out . . .
I was the one who could live longer with silence.
This morning, I woke at 4am, a puppy chewing on the hair at the nape of my neck, my hips achy from 8 already hours in bed. I climbed up and carried Mosey to the front door and then penguinned my way across the porch to the steps so he could do his business.
The farmyard, the neighborhood, the whole space was silent with the snow and ice that claimed yesterday. I filled myself up with it and stared at the streetlamp fuzzed in the distance . . . Narnia?
Now, 2 hours later, I am still awake, while Meander and Mosey have tucked themselves into the fleece blanket and the sleep beside me. I could have returned to bed, too, pushed myself back to sleep again. But something said that wakefulness in this silence was what I needed. The something was right. I feel rested, restored, filled. . .
It is easy to fill days with doing; it is not as easy to fill oneself that way.
Maybe it’s that I’m 40 now. Maybe it’s that I’ve finally found THE man who can abide this silence with me. Maybe it’s that I have heeded the tug at my soul that says I need open space and physical work and fewer people that makes my muscles take precedence of my mind. Maybe it’s that I am now able to claim what I need first – the oxygen mask on my own face before I give it away.
But now, more than anytime in my life, I am willing to live into what I need, to grasp it, to seize it – even if it means taking the silence at 4am on an icy, late winter’s morning.
On Memorial Day a couple of years back, Philip, his parents, and I packed a lunch and climbed the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic. It was cold – raining with the threat of sleet on that May day – and we shivered as we ate sandwiches and chips at a rustic picnic table at the edge of the woods. I was becoming part of their long-time family tradition of picnics on the Parkway now.
Later that afternoon, Philip drove us to the Pepsi parking lot in Charlottesville, where we climbed aboard a hot air balloon. I had always wanted to go up in one – ever since I had been too scared as a child to take the opportunity to go aloft in a tethered balloon with the local weatherman when I was about 6. So here we were, floating above the reservoir, friends’ texting me from the Target parking lot below, when I got a new text – “Will you Marty” it read. . . and I looked up to see the beautiful sapphire ring I wear now.
“Don’t drop it,” I said before my yes.
And I meant the ring. But I also meant this life – our aloft life where I have the space to breath deep the silence with the most loving man I know beside me. I also meant this moment. I also meant me.
It is easy to fill life up – to take just the next thing that comes, to go into day and then into night without really breathing. I know – I did it for years.
But not anymore. Now, I choose each day. I choose this man who took me flying and proposed over a farm. I choose our life here – full of ice and poop and the purple light of dawn. I choose dogs who wake me at 4am only to go right back to sleep.
I choose me. And the silence I need.
We have lots of new things happening here on the farm in the coming months – including a NEW loom-knitting workshop in May. Check out our Events page to get the details and plan to join us here soon.