I last reported (that’s a fairly glib use of the word) to you From This Terrace on the 11th day of a newly minted year. Although I wrote with honesty about reaching a place where I wasn’t waiting, I think I must have been waiting, as we all do. It’s the human response to life’s challenges and perhaps an indication of hope for change.
I’m not recanting. I’m confessing I couldn’t live up to the idealized higher self I thought I had come close to touching in the heady days of early January. At least I glimpsed what I thought I could achieve. Then many things collided at once. The temptation to push aside what I felt wasn’t essential overtook me. And silence ensued, and did it ever last. 224 days of it. The Stone Sage Lion began to roar at me and that’s quite a feat.
Silence is a writer’s best friend, or so I’ve been told. The great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova said that there was only one luxury a writer could not live without — the ability to be absolutely alone. I’ve been mostly alone in the days of this year — if not always in actuality, a still solitude has taken up residence in my brain. It’s not felt like a luxury, but more a defeat occasioned by illness and life choices. It’s made me think about silence and solitude. It’s made me remember the writer and scholar Carolyn Heilbrun who spoke about solitude being something one craved only if one did not have to endure it all of the time.
Summer is a silent time in my part of the world. Suppress your laughter. In fact, my Manhattan neighborhood is quiet because people go away. They “do summer” and I don’t “do summer” any longer. Summer was never my friend but I pretended we were intimates. Eventually, the pretense gave way to the reality of my life. I stopped being a truth-evader. Summer and I do not get along well. We’re not a good match – I think of us as a constantly quarreling couple. So rather than wintering through as Rilke commands in his sonnet, I’ve summered through. I’ve decided what’s essential is to combine silence with connections, even if those take the form of sustained email conversations with friends. I still believe C.S. Lewis was right when he said that we read to know we are not alone…but I now add my footnote to his comment … I think many of us write to know we are not alone. That is surely the case for me.
So, am I waiting for something? Yes, I am. I am waiting to learn how to let go of extreme expectations for myself that blindside me to the smallest pleasures of a day. Early this morning, I was awakened by the sound of birds in the middle of this completely urban landscape. They were rummaging through the terrace’s hanging flower boxes to see if by chance there was a tasty morsel for them to enjoy for breakfast. They were chattering to each other, and to me.
From This Terrace is Open…again…finally.
©Alida Brill/From This Terrace 2012