Awakened By Silence & Song

via Daily Prompt: Chaotic

There’s nothing quite like collective silence. Whether you’re standing at a school Remembrance Day assembly as the Last Post is played on the bugle, or the moments before communion is served at church, there’s something special about collective silence. Silence makes some people feel awkward. At the same time, it has a way of tapping into our vulnerable parts. It’s the means in which the soul speaks, and is heard. Collective silence is usually an intended experience, therefore, is less awkward and intentionally taps into our soul.

I had the opportunity to experience collective silence during a concert of one of my favourite singer-songwriter artists. When we arrived at the venue we were shocked to find out that we would not be sitting in the theatre seats. Instead, we were ushered onto the stage to a table only a few feet away from the very intimate make-shift stage. It was everything I dreamed of – a dimly lit room with a sea of small tables, each with a candle. The small stage faced the audience and their backdrop was the imperial-looking empty theatre seats. The room glowed with crisp white, blue and orange spot lights that illuminated the dancing dry ice high above the stage.

The well-planned atmosphere set the tone for what I was about to experience. Like most fans, when you see your favourite band you feel the excitement more intensely minutes before the band arrives on stage. I was in a happy place – anticipating certain songs and elated that I got to share this experience with my loved one and a room full of fans.

After the opening artist exited the stage and the crowd had a few minutes to stretch, the moment I was waiting for had arrived. There was no grand entrance. He was dressed quite casual and addressed the audience like friends. The first few chords synchronized with the warm whispers of his voice called us in. The crowd’s excitement was not concealed, and after the first few songs the largely generational crowd clapped (which was most appropriate for this artist – it wasn’t a chanting, screaming, moshing type of band). As the evening progressed I became mesmerized by the collective silence. The music generated the silence. It created a sense of awe. To me, it felt like the music danced on my soul. I feel a lot. Usually it’s the emotional response to daily stresses, but not tonight. Tonight the music tapped into the depths of my unattended emotions. His musical stories played in perfect unison by each band member entered my space and danced. The mournful melodies matched with honest lyrics and the strikingly somber bowing of the violinist swayed back and forth on my soul. Those pure emotions of joy and sorrow surfaced and met each other in a dance. Together with strangers, silent and in awe, my soul experienced the dance. I felt connected to the stories not entirely because of firsthand experience but in an empathic manner.

portland

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

In the silence, I wondered if the crowd was experiencing what I was experiencing: the resuscitation of emotions through song. “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). In my emotionally parched world, I experienced a wonderful array of emotions during the concert. Was it a spiritual experience? Yes, without question. God was present in the collective silence, in the stories sung and harmonious melodies of each song. My soul thirsted for connection and an emotional awakening, and I found God.

I love it when musicians are all right when a crowd responds with silence. I know sometimes musicians call for ‘response’ and seem to feel insecure during silence. To me, when music is so inspiring, silence is a golden sign of respect. Collective silence is a powerful means of connecting us with each other and our forgotten emotions.

donovan

To you Donovan Woods, I say thank you for your accessible and beautifully sorrowful songs that aren’t depressing, but awaken long-lost emotions and make them dance.

Donovan Woods

 

*photos by author

White Roses

It’s October and I’m making one last attempt at fixing the mess of my lawn. I haven’t a green thumb at all and I’m trying to ‘over’ seed to choke out the weeds. As I sit outside watching the sprinkler water the weedy mess, my attention becomes devoted to my grandfather’s white rose bush. First of all, I can’t believe I’ve been able to keep it alive now for 10 years considering that every other plant I’ve tended to has had a short life span. It’s not a beautifully manicured rose bush, but has a variation of small buds, full blooms and rose hips with a few petals hanging on. My grandfather’s rose bush is symbolic of my priorities these days: rarely do I take the time to labour for something beautiful. I find I spend most of my time on the life essentials like food, clean clothes, bills and of course, social media. By slowing down long enough to just sit on a lawn chair (no social media check-ins) I was able to appreciate my grandfather’s un-manicured white rose bush. It’s the only plant in the garden with flowers still on it. Grandpa’s white roses are a reminder to not only slow down and smell the roses, but that beautiful things are an investment.

whiteroses

Throughout my childhood, I watched my grandparents tend to their garden. They never seemed stressed out with 1000 things to do. They were present. They were in the moment. They catered to each plant, pruning, fertilizing and watering them with expertise and care. My sister and I took pleasure in the fruits of their labour enjoying garden picnics with delicious cherry tomatoes, crunchy carrots and homemade desserts with fresh berries from their the garden. I wish I had more time to focus and invest in things that don’t have an immediate result like my health, home or art projects and flourishing relationships.

Jesus said that a man had a fig tree in his vineyard that didn’t produce fruit for 3 years, and told the man that took care of the vineyard to cut it down. This tree was a waste of useful soil. ““Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down”” (Luke 13:6-9). The gardener in the story refuses to give up on the fig tree and knows that if he provides the fig tree with what it needs then it will produce fruit…but if it doesn’t produce fruit a year later, cut it down (Luke 13:6-9).

This story has greater significance than just tending to a plant in hopes that it will produce fruit. It’s about repentance. God is the vineyard owner and Jesus is the one providing us with all that we need to receive repentance and live a fruitful life.

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8

Similar to how I don’t take time to slow down and invest in something ‘great,’ I also don’t regularly repent. I just expect to become that beautiful blooming flower without the need for any pruning. I need to invest in my spiritual health by regularly recognizing that I’m not perfect and I need God to make me more like Him. Repentance is the pruning that allows our lives to bloom.

Taking a few minutes to appreciate what’s always been in my yard, was both a sad reminder that I trade in beauty for quick results, and a joyous memory of my grandfather’s devotion to invest and labour because something beautiful awaits.

I know the deepest longings in my heart need to be fed with those things in life that are free and cost the most. Beauty is all around us but it costs us time to embrace it and labour to bring it to life.

“Psalms 128:2 “You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!”

grave

At my grandfather’s funeral my grandmother laid one of his white roses across his chest. It was grandpa’s favourite flower. Today I wish I could slow down and take joy in something so simple. Instead I rush to clean up dinner, prepare for the next day and try to quickly solve a serious weed problem in my backyard. Thank goodness grandpa’s striking white roses are the beauty among the sea of weeds that brought me back to fond memories of grandpa and made me stop long enough to smell the roses.

 

*photos by author