I am a fairly early riser. I am often awake sometime between 6 and 6:30am, and I almost always hear the click of the door as our room-mate, Trey, heads out (around 7am) to make the walk up the path to his car and thence to his job in town. I do not emerge from the bedroom to see him depart. Instead, I prefer to enjoy this part of the morning, under the layers of sheets and blankets, enjoying the stillness of the moment.
Rebecca and Geoffrey gave Pony and me leave to install ourselves in the master bedroom. This chamber has a row of windows that border the upper edge of the roof. When we first arrived, it would still be on the far side of 7am (closer to 8) before the morning light would come streaming through those windows. But we are nearly finished with January, and the approach of day comes noticeably closer, and lingers a bit longer each evening. So I lay in the bed, with my wife, and the dog, and one or two (or even all three) cats, just taking in the stillness of winter on the mountain.
I am thinking about stillness in a variety of ways lately. The mountain was enshrouded in a thick fog this morning (only possible when the wind has ceased). The dog and I took our usual morning walk, and without the wind to keep us company, the only substantial sound was the crunch of my boots in the snow (Rufus has already learned to tread far more quietly).
And it was just a couple of days ago when I heard of the passing of Pete Seeger. Another stillness. In the New York Times, they said “he sang until his voice gave out, and then he sang some more.” Mr. Seeger might have been embarrassed to be compared to Ghandi, but I believe there is a fair comparison, in the sense that both of them thought (and fought) passionately for human beings (although “fought” may not be the most suitable verb). Ghandi was concerned about industry and corporate activity becoming too large, beyond human scale, as it were. Pete Seeger addressed similar concerns, although, in his case, he dedicated his life to sharing music with audiences all over the world. But he was never happier than when he got an audience to sing along and create that community of song. I don’t know if Pete Seeger ever got around to listening to the CD’s I mailed to him. But, at the very least, I had my chance to add my voice to the many others who have acknowledged what a positive influence he was.
In another nod to stillness, the latest issue of TIME magazine has a cover story about mindfulness (and, couched within that all-embracing term, the technique and tradition of meditation). I have found some time to meditate nearly every day and welcome that addition to my set of daily activities. And when I play the guitar, I have been able to listen more attentively to the tone and phrasing, and play with a greater sense of intention. It is very much a zen thing, this way in which the music can co-exist with the stillness.