Cherry BlossomsSo much takes place in the contemplative silence of observation.

How does one write of silence? …the silence of the sun setting, which closes the origami day of busy thoughts into curled, wet night? Of the clear pink ruffled petticoat and sweet smell of a cherry blossom in April? Of my aching back which reminds me not so much of all the garden work I’ve done, but of how old I feel?

A visit to family in Bethesda over the weekend allowed my body to relax, and also allowed a virus to infest my system, inspiring further sluggishness. I’ve been feeling like a slug in general these days: Don’t wanna talk, don’t wanna save the world, don’t wanna think. A general rejection of positive decorum burns within me. So I didn’t plan much for my visit. I just wanted to veg.

My sister and I ended up attending a performance of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion. I wanted to do something to get out of the house. While near the big city, do big city things. The Passion was to be performed, appropriately, on Good Friday. Not being religious, I looked forward mainly to Bach’s glorious music. I had never heard this piece in it’s entirely. It’s very long and involved, basically recounting in detailed musical drama the last week of Jesus’ life. It ended up being a life turning experience for me.

How does one describe how great music kneads one’s emotions into a rum ball which silently melts in the hot breath of a hungry mouth?

The longest of Bach’s works, it fills three hours. This performance was led by Helmuth Rilling, the renowned German scholar and interpreter of Bach’s music. He led impressive forces, including two orchestra’s formed by members of the National Symphony, two choirs, a children’s chorus, and six soloists.

Believe it or not, Rilling conducted the entire performance from memory! Now that’s passion for music. He brought an ethereal lightness from the normally heavy music, yet it did not detract from the somber effect. He held together the large span of its structure by maintaining direction, with very little break between the many sections.

During the performance, an earthly problem added an ironic distraction. A guide dog whimpered a high pitched canine descant throughout most of the performance. It’s owner stubbornly remained, even as many patrons nearby had to leave. One patron finally convinced the owner to leave, perhaps offering to buy her ticket back. Too bad, since this music is rarely performed live.

passion of Jesus ChristWith a hefty head cold brewing in my head, I sat and absorbed this magnificent music, written centuries ago in 1727. With all the text set to music, it alternates between narration, dialog and emotional or poetic impressions. The narration and dialog tell the well known story from over two thousand years ago in a seamless set of scenes.

After each scene, the poetic exposition of its emotions featured the richest music. This is where the text and music appeals to the listener across time and history. As Bach’s music worked its magic, I silently warmed to a compelling message; one of empathy, forgiveness and renewal. I also felt a deep comfort under the mantle of gentle Spirit of this Son of Man, who suffered far more for his innocence than I ever will for my sinfulness.

My spirit unfolded its origami way into a new sheet of uncreased joy.

Pansies in PotsThe rest of the weekend was spent enduring the rise and fall of an empire of virus, which blossomed into a full head cold. Nonetheless, beautiful weather inspired some yard work to maintain and ever improve Platinum Glamor’s voluptuous garden.

This time my brother-in-law and I added several new Camellia bushes to replace some rhododendrons which had croaked. There wasn’t much else to do, except prune and clean a bit. My mother’s garden is healthy and vigorous. Each year it fills up and out as it matures. I’ve watched that garden grow for 35 years. Much has come and gone. I love the stories Spring gardens tell of years past, when I remember what used to grow there, or how small that tree was way back when. I’m more aware of time’s passing in Spring. Each dawn urges the garden into a new array, surprising us into noticing.

How does one measure the teaming chorale of Springs quiet vigor as it sprawls out over the abyss of time with such assurance?

Colored Easter EggsSomewhere in between gardening, shopping and attending the concert we managed to have several wonderful meals, including lamb for Easter dinner. We even dyed some eggs, color therapy to wash away winter grays.

I quietly breathe in these reminders that newness is always at hand, even when I’m feeling sick with an aching back and a sluggish soul.

18 thoughts on “Silence

  1. This is a beautiful description of how an encounter with music affected your soul. Music is so powerful; it can energize, relax, sadden, awaken, or numb the listener. You were in some kind of emotional dialog with this music; your awareness of its power made it alive.

  2. As I read this piece, I was first struck by the rythm of your prose. I read several sentences twice, just to savor their flavor. Very nice David. Well done.

    I was next amused by the circular ending, how you meandered from music to religion, to family, to gardening, to mother, to dying eggs (which is part of another religion.)


    You were moved by the death of the Christ, and then spent time playing with the rituals of the olde Pagan traditions that The Christ followers killed. (Honoring The Mother, Welcoming Spring, and dying eggs as symbols of the rebirth/resurection of the earth)

    Im just being silly…But I like what you wrote.

  3. I too, like Kelly, noticed the symbols of spring and life and religions throughout this one. I too, noticed the lovely lilting music of your words. I was nice being a part of and hearing the story of your weekend.

    I was taken for a while thinking, thinking of how the music even affected the dog. Sorry that the dog bothered the humans, but it seemed as if the dog might have felt the music.

    I always like how gardeners speak of their gardens, but you do it as a writer and a musician. That’s the most delicious to mw.

  4. Hello Amy- Music always affects me deeply. But the combination of music and words and story and the famous spirit created by that man’s life all came together and managed to get through my religion “filter”. I feel now that I really understand why it’s such a powerful religion.

  5. Kelley and Liz- Yes, I wandered a bit, as one does on vacation. But all those experiences came together. And you saw that. Thank you for noticing.

    Yes, poor dog. During the first half, the dog was right in the first row of the hall, right under the noses of the singers. My sister and I were amazed they could keep their concentration and not laugh or smile or something!! The pooch even shook its head once or twice, rattling all the tags on its collar, very noisy. For the second half the animal was in the balcony, which was better for the singers, but which was broadcast over the all for all to hear. I was far enough to block it out, but the listeners nearby I’m sure could not hear the music over the whining. I really felt the dogs owner did a selfish thing by staying so long. if I had a crying baby, I wouldn’t stay just because I wanted to!

    Glad you enjoyed the post. I enjoyed writing it. I really do feel kind of distant these days, and yet, perhaps, I’m closer to being true to myself than ever before. This is good, to get through the layers of self deceit.


  6. It’s all about color, isn’t it? The flowers, the garden, the trees, the eggs… it’s all a newness that bursts forth seemingly overnight and changes perspective. Sorry you weren’t feeling well, hope that the relaxation and the hope of spring invades and heals your body and spirit. A lovely read.

  7. Hi Ned, The colors around Bethesda were amazing. The redbuds, cherries and dogwoods were all in bloom at once, as if Spring had been compressed into one week. Those pinks, purples and whites just jiggled in the eyes, eye candy.

  8. David dear: Just this afternoon had time to sit at the computer and read your wonderful, heartfelt description of your visit “home” over Easter. I am pleased so very much of your visit meant so very,very much to you spiritually in spite of your bad chest cold. Also pleased that you were able to “vegetate” so to speak and renew. Thanks David for just being you! Thanks for all the pleasure you have brought to your Father and me over our life time in your respect, love and for sure, the glorious music you create. Love ya!! Mom

  9. Dear Garnet David (Yes, I called you that way back when):)

    What a wonderful feast this post was for the eyes and the soul. I have been unable to blog around much on other sites lately – I’ve missed your touch.

    By the way, is all okay with my darling Betty…is she still whirling? Please let me know, as I do worry…and am rather fond of her, the child and the little chalupa yapper.



  10. Hi Teri- Yes, that name fits. It’s the Garnet me. Thanks for the idea.

    Glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve also been out of touch. I’ll stop by your place soon.

    Betty is fine, just busy and distracted by other things. I say hello for you and nudge her back to her blog.


  11. How does one write of silence? Right now, I don’t know but I would like to figure out how. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to explore such a wonderful concept. Amazing how such a simple line in a long post sticks with one. I first read this post when you wrote it and I’ve come back just to read that one line again. I would like to write of silence. If I figure out how, I’ll let you know David.

  12. Trée- Maybe it’s me, but there’s a tone in that comment which made me uneasy. It sounds sarcastic. Did you intend it? If not, sorry.

    I’m becoming aware of the difference between description and observation. Words have their own world which can only roughly resemble reality. Silence is a place where I can observe clearly. Words usually get in the way.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  13. David, no sarcasm in my comment. I had never thought to try and attempt to write about silence–a concept dear and near to my heart. When I read your post it triggered a curiosity in me, an itch I have been unable to scratch since I’ve been unable to figure out exactly how I would write such a piece. I think you hit the nail on the head in that words are indeed getting in the way.

  14. No worries David. I teach a communications workshop where I show that influence in communication is 7% words, 38% tone of voice and 55% body language. When we communicate like we do here with only words we only have that 7% to try to say what we might otherwise communicate with a look or a tone of voice or a shrug of the shoulders. This medium creates a wonderful environment for miscommunication–lol.

    A simple exercise I do with my class to illustrate tone of voice is to have them repeat the phrase “I said she stole the money.” Each time I have them put the emphasis on the next word in the sentence. Just that difference changes the meaning. The words didn’t change, but with tone, the meaning does.

    Thanks again for putting that wonderful thought and idea into my head. I’m still trying to scratch that itch–and it’s all good. 🙂

  15. Dave,
    What an enjoyable read. Loved the Mark Twain moment with the dog. Your writing’s starting to become like well-scored musical compositons: poised, sonorous and esthetic.

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