Be Still

July 31, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Living With Intention, Summertime, Vermont

It is hot and breezy in NYC on these summer mornings. You can smell fried food in the air and the curbs are loaded up with towering trash early in the mornings. The delivery guys have another swig of coffee before they unload and call and shout to the waiting cabs to hold their horses. The garbage trucks all have back-up warning sounds, while the early morning traffic cops blow their whistles, and this cacophony of smell and sound is New York City.

In Vermont the birds are noisy in the mornings as if they are headed off to the office and the kids can’t find their homework or their shoes. They are hungry and they fly around singing and chattering
to one another like a bunch of women in a Starbucks line. The chickens too have a lot to say in the mornings. They lay their eggs early in the day and each egg is cause for much conversation and celebrating. The dogs lazily chase an imagined chipmunk and occasionally bark at nothing much just for the joy of it. And these, are the only sounds, in the mountains. We make most of the noise up here ourselves. Very little of it was already here. Oh, there is the swish of the trees when the wind kicks up in the afternoon. It is a low hum and the leaves whoosh and rustle. Sometimes it is so loud that the dogs bark in response. But sound is a relative thing. In the city that same wind would go unnoticed except for what it did to your hair.

Right now this minute the birds have all flown up to their homes. They are snuggling in since it feels like rain. The air is that sort of motley green it gets sometimes before a big rain, but the trees are absolutely still and the woods are quiet. I sit on my porch and observe this silence. When we lived in the city at the end I ached for some quiet. The sirens and the buses, and the cheerful noise of the delivery vans had started to prick my skin once we’d decided to move. I wanted a stillness that had never been mine, and I thought that I might find it in the quiet of the mountains. I was a classic type a, running around never staying too long anywhere, worrying, fretting, advancing. My overcrowded schedule was a source of misplaced pride. So I gave up wearing a watch the week we moved. It was a symbol. In spite of all the business travel and the meetings and the hustle of the Blackberry world I had to reenter I have never picked up that watch again. It was a lovely thing too. I’d mooned over it for weeks before I’d actually laid down the cash. Now it hangs next to necklaces and bracelets, a silent testament to the commitment I made to myself when we came up here.

And this morning anyway I am keeping it. I don’t always. My heart still pounds and I can feel the worry of being late which I rarely ever am. We gave up our old city problems when we came to Vermont but before long we’d made up a bunch of new ones. Some of them caused my heart to race and fear to follow me to bed. We lost buckets of money and are still recovering. Our life savings evaporated in a trice and we are still paying off the mess that was the horrible quaint country store. ..(It is still hard to believe after buying and selling companies for twenty years it was a little million dollar store that almost took us under) So the lovely quiet didn’t always ease the pounding in my chest. But it is always here to remind me. As I sit in this utter stillness where not so much as a single leaf moves I remember to savor the peace. I inhale it and try to make it mine. My Gram used to say..this too shall pass..about whatever worry was pestering me when I was little. And it does. And this morning as a new batch of worry snuck in I grab big lungfuls of quiet mountain air. I look at the dappled light, creeping through the trees and arguing with the storm truck that wants to make rain. Summer, autumn, winter, spring, and then summer again. Always. Sunshine and rain and snow and sunshine. The rhythms of life continue without our permission. And no matter how much noise we manage to make… when we stop, even for a minute… it is quiet again.

Sound is a relative thing…..


  • library lady

    For the past year, I have been forced by circumstances and administrators beyond my control to be at work at 7:30 in the morning. I am so NOT a morning person that even the sound of the birds of summer getting on with their lives annoys me! And while the St. Louis suburbs don’t come close to city living, we also don’t come close to mountain breezes. Thanks for the insight…but I’m keeping my watch on my wrist!

  • Mighty Morphin' Mama

    I think the quiet is an almost religious experience, if you can be still it will enter your soul and mind and cleanse them.

  • starrlife

    I know what you mean. When you go to silent Quaker Meetings you become so close to yourself again! I am not a religious person but I appreciate any opportunity to close that big gap that everyday life can make between your soul and your behavior.
    Right now we live in the crook of a brook and the gentle gurgling is very soothing too.

  • maggie

    my mom used to tell me to be stil i wish someone would tell me that now

  • kd

    i have heard of this thing called silence . i thought it became extinct

  • jamie

    This is one of my favorite posts from your blog. It’s so perfect. And, I will be listening to the sounds of NYC in only a matter of days. I cannot wait.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your Jungian theory this morning–I was laughing out loud at work–never a good plan when the boss is close! 🙂

  • Kellan

    I was in San FRancisco for the BlogHer conference a couple of weeks ago and so loved seeing the “LIVE” city – seeing and hearing it – watching it move and make its noise. I love the quiet of where I live – but I did enjoy the hussle and bussle of SF!!

    Lovely post – E – as usual! When are you going to write a book – compile all these lovely thoughts and fabulous words you string together – WHEN!?

    Take care – Kellan

  • Jennifer

    Oh, I needed to read this, today. I really did. Thank you.

    And thank you for checking in on me, over at my place. I left a note for you over there. I can’t say “all is well” because we’re not “well” here right now. But we’re healthy and we’re together and we’re remembering to breathe in those deep breaths. And that’s what’s really important.

  • Angela

    There is nothing better than sitting outside drinking my coffee in the morning listening to nothing but the leaves and the animals.

    Love this post!

  • Susiewearsthepants

    One of my dreams is to retire in the country. I will sit on my porch(nekkid if I want to) and watch birds and squirrels. I will call my friends and complain how the girls never make it out to see me. They will complain that I live too far out in the country. Bliss I tell you.

  • laurwilk

    Oh, how I long for things still and quiet. I hope you’re enjoying it! I am quite jealous.

  • Bia

    This is so true. Sometimes being still and savoring the moment says more about life than all the running around we do to try and live it.

    I love the image of your chickens celebrating each egg that they lay, and I love your decision to not wear a watch anymore…it’s not something I could do since my watch is the only piece of jewelry (aside from my wedding rings) that I wear. But maybe I can put away my mental clock…


  • TheCynicalOptimist

    Seems like those wise ol’ women know a thing or two when they tell us not to worry! Big or small- the things all seem to pass and we make it through to the other side!

  • Kate

    Thanks for your rainy day bag ideas on my blog. I can’t find your e-mail address, but what’s Texasville? Sounds really good. Books are my go-to!

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