The Stillness

Tonight I sat on my husband’s grandmother’s bench in our backyard with Izzy and waited. I waited for one of the boys to whine or run home from the next-door neighbor’s house, where I hoped they had gone after fussing over whether they had to eat all their dinner and then not eating all their dinner and whining and whining. But on the bench I heard no whining.

Brandon’s grandmother had this bench built and placed at an angle in the yard and when you sit there and stare straight forward your line of sight catches the back of the house, the deck, and the detached garage. If it had been me, I would’ve asked for a 180 before cementing the footers so as to look away from the man-made and into the somewhat more wild.

Even though we disagree about bench placement, sometimes I sit where Garnet sat and wait.

It’s so quiet here. Now, when I’m alone in our front living room and the whiny boys have made their last complaint for the night and returned to saints who say I love you and ask for beep-boops and kisses and drift off to dreamland in minutes, now, the only sound I hear are crickets, or frogs, through thin window panes and the click-clack of my nails on keys.

in-the-stillnessBut even earlier, when it was still day and there were plenty of creatures around to cause a ruckus, it was still so quiet, so calm, and so I waited, because something always comes in the stillness.

These last few weeks and nearly all of summer have been good, so good, so filled with love and work and sweat and fun with family and friends. I’ve listened to books while driving and filled the days with words spoken and kept quiet, some sown into poems and others into blog posts and others into social media and still others into marketing campaigns and articles to bear fruit or shrivel on the vine, the way words do sometimes. Even when the words got so loud I needed to turn them down, so heavy with their politics and pressure-cooked importance, even then it was still good. So good.

These last few weeks were relief and good news as Mom’s cells responded as planned to cancer treatments and kidney function improved and who needs meat and cheese! We’ve got health and time, more time, more time, time to fill and time to heal and time uncertain but certainly promising and good, good, good. It is good, these moments, this news, the wellness and scans and smaller masses. It is bought time, precious time, only time.

We know how this ends, my mom and me. It is terrible, and beautiful, and awe-full.

I’m tired, and I want to just let it be tonight, let it be, the hummingbird that buzzed in close to my bench and then backed up in mid-flight as if surprised to see me in that space then darted away. Let it be, the time and the summer ending and the children graduating to new grades and adventures. Let it be, the body fighting or giving in to whatever plagues or punishes or grows. Let it be, the long weekend with my immediate family on Lake Cumberland with its slate bottom and clear, warm water and space, and peace. Let it be, the politics and future and kingdom of heaven on earth, just let it be. I’m just so tired.

In the stillness I caught what I noticed on camera, I caught tulip tree leaves yellow on a slab of stone on drought-sapped earth, I caught strands of cobweb slackened and heavy with some tree seed and chip of leaf, I caught the beams above me.

I held them all there in my phone and wouldn’t you know it, I just couldn’t let them be. I had to go and make meaning, place language against image against memory. That’s the trouble with stillness, all the residual noise that surfaces.

I spy with my little eye survival, woven and spun.

In the stillness the sediment settles and all that seemed murky clears; you can see the intricacies of light slicing water molecules open, shivering across fish scales.

If you angle just right you see straight to the bottom of the thing, which is beautiful, and terrible, and awe-full.

See there I go again. It’s too quiet in here, and I’m tired.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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