Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Still and still moving"

I startle three hens under the lilac, one in her dust bath, the other two waiting for it. It is unforgivable of me, and they let me know. The air is thick with mist, which enters feather and hair, even bone. I did not want to rise up from my chair to get outside and walk. And neither does the hen want to budge from her comfortable hollow, scratched and dug out so she can bathe and rest.

. . . As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. . . .  (T.S. Eliot, from East Coker, Four Quartets)

Something in me would happily go down to death sitting in this chair, living through the interior, letting go of the body. Mind and heart diving, connecting, deepening, finding light in the darkest places. They say that women grow introspective in their forties. Now I am in the waning fifties, and traveling inside, toward my original home, is still what I desire. If Home is where one starts from, as Eliot wrote, it is also where we go in the end. The body dallies and drags through to that. Even air heavily prohibits movement.

We must be still and still moving . . .

It seems that the first is difficult early in life, and the second later. Always the reversal, the seemingly opposing force that is waiting behind this present experience. 


  1. Little James, my grandson, began to crawl yesterday. (I was not with him when this happened, but I've seen a 16-second video of the event that his mother took.) He had been scooting, like a sniper, but now he gets up on his knees and spastically moves one hand and one knee in front of the other to reach his goal. He will move faster and faster now! He will become adept.

    I hold him in my arms. If I am on the floor with him, he crawls all over me, while I am still. I distract him from other matters. So I try not to intrude.

    We are a good pair, one moving, one still.

  2. I predict that you will be coming back to these words with even more pressing urgency as you move through the coming years. At this point, just a few weeks from my seventieth, few words could resonate more deeply than Eliot's observation that "the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated," and my daily challenge remains to find the magical point of homeostasis where I am both "still and still moving." Yes, we are all trying to get back home — is this not the overriding theme of Homer's Odyssey? — and once we arrive, we will, as Eliot reassures us, "know it for the first time."

    I've returned from my walk, Ruth, and will be commenting more now that I am home.

    1. Welcome back, George! You were missed.

      I admire, greatly admire how you keep moving. You are a model for me; if only I could accomplish more than a fraction of what you manage to do, with your regular exercise regimen and your yearly major walks. I pictured you on your hilly trek and very much look forward to what you will share from it, which I'm counting on. I have no doubt that you not only walked the Cotswolds and will have stunning photos to prove it, but you also walked your interior landscape, and this is what makes your story so wholly beautiful.

  3. It's this tendency to rest, to burrow, that we must fight to stay alive, to be in this world.

    1. Rosaria, you and your husband were in my mind when I wrote this.

  4. Yes, you're a good pair. His imperative is to move, to explore the world to take in all it holds. Your (our) imperative is to go within, explore that world that leads us home. You are both becoming more adept.

    1. Mary, thank you. Many days I feel I am crawling spastically. :-)

  5. p.s. I was inspired by this, Ruth, and went on to write about it. Thank you.

    1. Wonderful. Please tell me which blog you posted it?

  6. i say thank goodness for that opposing force - to see the antipode is to appreciate what we once lived, what we miss or do not miss, or what we can anticipate - you and little james, a beautiful example.

    you paint a powerful image of diving down, through the chair, into the interior, connecting, deepening and finding light in the darkest places. this is life's most powerful journey. thank you for celebrating that in these elegant words.

    1. Amanda, to see the antipode, yes. I'm afraid our culture does not foster this way of seeing. I'm grateful for Rumi as a teacher while I began to experience it intensely. And I am grateful you understand so well and see. Thank you.

  7. Very moving post, Ruth... "traveling inside, toward my original Home, is still what I desire." Oh yes... I'm in my early 60's still traveling inward towards Home - diving deeper... Just wanting Quiet Awareness and Silent Stillness as my companions on the Way. The requirements of daily living however sometimes seem overwhelming when my Heart wants to go in a different direction... You may like a poem posted over on Wishing you peace - Christine

    1. Thank you, Christine. I am thrilled that you, too, are traveling "farther in."

      Billy Collins' poem is too wonderful not to repost it here, if you don't mind:

      The best time is late afternoon
      when the sun strobes through
      the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
      and when you find an agreeable rock
      to sit on, you will be able to see
      the light pouring down into the woods
      and breaking into the shapes and tones
      of things and you will hear nothing
      but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
      falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
      and if this is your day you might even
      spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
      driving overhead toward some destination.

      But it is hard to speak of these things
      how the voices of light enter the body
      and begin to recite their stories
      how the earth holds us painfully against
      its breast made of humus and brambles
      how we who will soon be gone regard
      the entities that continue to return
      greener than ever, spring water flowing
      through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
      passing over the hills and the ground
      where we stand in the tremble of thought
      taking the vast outside into ourselves.

      Billy Collins
      (from Directions in The Art of Drowning)

  8. stillness can be that essential orb we carry inside our not-still bodies)))

    Something in me would happily go down to death sitting in this chair, living through the interior, letting go of the body. Mind and heart diving, connecting, deepening, finding light in the darkest places...If Home is where one starts from, as Eliot wrote, it is also where we go in the end. The body dallies and drags through to that.

    this is exquisite writing and living, ruth. but what is so wrong in our society that it seems we have to wait until our forties or fifties to arrive here, how much work at cutting through the bullshit of the body, the distraction of the created ruse of society, of immortality and of the hurrah of acquisition? that is not to say there is not value in this journey. there is. but i wonder how much further along in terms of peace we might be in our selves and with one another if we were able to start at the beginning with gentler and more rightful terms.

    the crux of society as we know it is to always be moving, ruth. i do not understand it. can not. have never. as i visualize this right now i come back to the thinking of something i was beginning to understand last week, this image of life as a river, the moving life, the life of structure and economics and yes, acquisition and "progress" in terms of always growing, consuming, building, the river that asks always for tomorrow. and along side this runs the other river, the silent one, the one that turns inward and breathes, that considers reflections and that which rests beneath reflections, the one that asks for nothing but now. i'm not sure they are both not necessary in terms of human life. perhaps it is only i that am odd to not understand the first. i seem to lack a fundamental understanding of this louder language, always drawn to the whisper of the second river, the one that moves but is so still you could rest upon with your sweet James in your arms.


    1. Erin, as I read what you left me here I felt I was reading my own mind's thoughts. I am hopeful, maybe too hopeful, that it is possible to teach and model interior living to young persons. I pray it is, as I am devoting myself to it with little James.

      I, too, have never understood this other world. Never. And oh my friend, to see it as a mighty river, and next to it the silent river! These are images I can live with. They are helpful, because I can choose my way to the sea. We all can. I don't want the polluted one! I want the one that washes stones clean.


  9. The opening lines took me back to this morning when my neighbor cat met me on the porch and really wondered why I had annoyed it by coming outside

  10. 'We must be still..and still moving.'

    As a woman of your age - this post speaks quiet volumes to me. I hadn't quite considered the changes in myself and my view of the world as being age-related..but - clearly - they are. As we move a little slower..and with a lot more introspection..more and more looking inwards. YES!

    Thank-you for this today...:-)!

  11. "I did not want to rise up from my chair to get outside and walk....Something in me would happily go down to death sitting in this chair...."

    I wish for you a place like that when it's your time. I understand....

  12. I thought about this for quite some time...loveing the idea of sitting in my chair...knowing that that is how I am inclined too. But I do think that movement is even helps me with my inner I will keep moving, tapping my foot if nothing else.


All responses are welcome.