Dec 10, 2011

Picnic by the Waterfall

Worchester Massachusetts is hard to spell but easy to get lost in. On a road trip 19 years ago from Akron Ohio to Hartford Connecticut, my friend and I decided to veer off the interstate in favour of a backroad on our map that went by a waterfall. One hour of city overwhelm later, we were back on the interstate and pulling over at the first rest-stop.

But this was 19 years ago and we were young and visionary and hopeful. We turned out backs to the endless 70 mph roar of trucks & RV's and pretended it was the steady reassuring roar of a waterfall. Turns out that they're remarkably similar sounds, and with that simple re-classification we enjoyed a tranquil, natural picnic in our self-created oasis.

Fast forward to last Sunday when we hosted over a dozen Friends for a Quaker meeting for worship. As host I was hyper-aware of the sounds of the fireplace expanding and contracting, the cat scratching at the door, the children whittling outside, the phone I forgot to unplug. But I remembered the "waterfall", remembered that Silence is a state of the mind and the soul, not some idyllic condition in the surrounding world. True "centering down", to use Quaker-speak, is finding a quiet space that embraces and integrates the world, not shuts it out.

Or fast-forward to any busy week in our lives. We hold onto a constant illusion that with just one free day we'll get caught up; when this one big project is done I can slow down; if only I hadn't got sick or my child didn't have a fundraiser I could have had time for myself. Time for the waterfall re-classification trick, only this time it's not a self-deception. Those little "if only" events are not keeping us from living - they are living. The juiciness of life is in the interruptions.

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