Monday, 16 February 2015

January: Winter Silence

At around 2:45 PM the sun makes a comeback after its early morning visitation, and continuing the gradual ascent that began on 21st December climbs a little bit further and pours down like honey, once again. And winter silence engulfs me; even in a city like New York; even on a Friday; even with the three towers under construction in the neighbourhood. All is calm and all is quiet.
Once again, I realize why, despite the bleakness bestowed on it by popular imagination, winter is the perfect time to be still. To listen. 
“I wake up–a winter silence fills my apartment
With the mystery of life–
               why here, why now, why me:   
               I wonder what birds are nesting at this cold hour
               in bushes by the river, hibernating in their feathers.
               I imagine they
              do not dream about war,
              each breath for them is a cleansing baptism of a constantly occurring miracle,
              each feather tucked snugly to contain warmth
              purifies each heart
              that beats to be what it is.
I must tell you I seek their wisdom
each day
casually study them as I walk the ditch bank–
they seem to understand there is no death in life,
their serene poise on water
beneath the leafless overhanging branches
is movement toward the center of love.”
– from ‘Winter Poems along the Rio Grande’ by Jimmy Santiago Baca 
An historic storm was always a possibility, not a promise. That possibility skipped our door. It visited some miles further away.

Most people left work by 5:00 PM. On a Monday! At the grocery store there were smiles and a few laughs as we picked up bread and milk and extra batteries. By 9:00 PM the city that never sleeps was preparing to get some rest. Except of course the first responders and the road crews, whose long working hours had only just begun.

Late in the night, I woke to joyous laughter. It was 2:30 AM. Some people were making snow angels on the powdered sidewalk.

“Well, you know that I love to live with you
But you make me forget so very much I forget to pray for the Angel 
And then the Angels forget to pray for us”

(“So Long Marianne” by Leonard Cohen)

I watched till they did their penguin walk deep into the haze. And then slept undisturbed till 8:00 AM. The city was so quiet that you could have heard the rats scurrying in their underground chambers. (What a difference the absence of motor vehicles makes.)

Braving the blustery conditions, we meet for coffee. There is nothing to say. Time and space fill even the most contentious of subjects with silence. And ours wasn’t even an argument. We have always erred on the side of silence.

Holding our tiny cups of ‘single origin pour over espressos’ we are standing by the window. The gallery crowds are walking, pausing, peering in and then opening the door and stepping in– in an endless loop­– considering that almost every second door is a door to another gallery. The deliverymen on their bicycles are rushing by with sushi and pad thai lunches. The dog walker waiting at the stoplight is adjusting her gloves, while the dogs are sniffing the snow on the sidewalk. A man in a long black coat is muttering to himself (probably talking on the phone). After much aimless pecking a pigeon has found a pizza piece. The shop assistant is taking a cigarette break. 

The city has organized a pantomime. On the other side of the glass standing in silence, we are listening intently– to the sound of silence. And the snow begins to fall.

This silence
remembers in its deep dark chords and drums
a life beyond this life,
a beauty beyond this beauty.
– Jimmy Santiago Baca