Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dear Stillness

Dear Stillness,

     My name is Joe, and although I very much doubt that you remember me, we have met several times.  To be fair, it's a bit of a stretch to say that we've "met."  Your carriers, I've met.  You, I've only seen.  I've admired you - marveled, actually.  I long for just a sliver of what you have.

The first time I saw you, when I was seventeen, you seemed utterly foreign to me.  You took the form of my best friend's aunt, a retired teacher from the island of St. Thomas.  You were constantly surrounded by activity.  Your husband laughed and joked incessantly, and your brother was - and I presume still is - a whirlwind of noise and adventure.  Yet, somehow, you maintained your serenity.  You had an elegance, a way of gliding through all the chaos with a calm, warm smile.  I'll never know how you did it.

Gossamer Cumulus Fluff Over St. Thomas - 1995

A few years later, I saw you in the person of my sophomore crush in college.  Everyone thought you were an airhead of some sort, so slow to speak up, so blue-eyed and faraway.  I knew you were more than that - smarter than all of us, and full of the same insecurities and nineteen-year old angst that plagued us all.  You were probably just counting to ten before responding or reacting to anything or anyone, but it came across to me as the kind of stillness that usually accompanies one much older than you were.  Even if you were totally faking your serenity, it was a skill that I lacked, and I envied you for possessing it.

[Photo deleted - release not obtained]

Then, you appeared as a fictitious character, portrayed by a young and relatively inexperienced actress.  I must admit that in 1992, I utterly failed to notice that it was you, but a few months ago, when I took a closer look, there was no doubt.  As portrayed by the not-yet-hated-at-the-time Christina Ricci, little Wednesday Addams in the big-screen adaptation of "The Addams Family" showed me a new facet of you.  You weren't just still - you were cool.  It was as if movement of any kind - physical or emotional or otherwise - was simply beneath you.  Ricci was like ten years old when she did that movie - how did you DO that?  I would be thrilled to have just a day of being so committed to motionlessness.

Finally, you might think that I'd been too busy to have noticed, but your presence in my father did not escape me.  Even before his stroke, you had him sitting quietly at the edge of the action.  Not quite a wallflower - he was perfectly willing to participate in a gathering, and when he did so, he was extremely capable.  But, he didn't need to move, to make a sound, to be heard.  He -you- would just as soon observe, note, learn, and be.  He could do small talk, but by that last decade, even I could see that he abhorred speaking in the interest of the avoidance of silence.  This was, to me, one of his greatest gifts and, Dear Stillness, he got it from you.  It made those few words he did venture to say just that much weightier.  

The Man and His Books

I don't regret the fact that I inherited his temper and his sarcasm - but not his stillness.  However, I do both rue and lament it.  Yes, I stole that line. I'm not as clever as he was, either.

Anyway, Stillness.  I like you.  I admire you.  I want what you have.  I don't even have the excuse of a house full of children, or a high-octane career, but for whatever reason I cannot reach you.  I won't stop trying.  

To be still.  To be at peace.  Just for a moment.  Must be nice.

Love, Joe 

Rock Creek Valley Elementary School.  Snow.  Night.  Stillness.

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