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Untimely Spring

May 7, 2012

How to measure an untimely Spring. It’s hard to complain. At least the wind is warm.

Once again, there’s the scent of marijuana on the evening breeze. Don’t worry—I’m sure it’s medicinal. Otherwise, the smokers certainly would be out walking around instead of sitting in cars on a lovely Spring night.

There’s the sound of rattlesnakes in the rocks behind Tenderfoot, the flash of sunburnt skin, the sound of weed-whackers and chain saws.

I remember a recent quote in the newspaper: “The trees are either diseased or suffer from poor pruning practices; they are older trees and are subject to breakage. Therefore, removal is a safety issue.”

My immediate reaction was, phew, glad I’m not a tree. That description could have been about me. Sometimes, it’s necessary, but it’s hard to see old trees come down. We don’t grow trees very quickly here.

But the measure of Spring is when to plant, and the rule of thumb here is to wait until the snow is gone from Methodist Mountain. Despite the warmth, there’s still snow up there. We camped last week on Poncha Pass, and the dog’s water bowl froze over night.

But the forest was deliciously quiet. Not silent, certainly. There were mourning doves at dusk, and in the middle of the night, with the moon down and the black sky sprayed white with stars to the horizon, an owl hooted in the glow of the aspen grove behind us. The wind had died, and the night was still.

Quiet is dear to my heart, even though our library is often not quiet, a fact I hope the remodeling will change to some degree.

I’m still on the waiting list for a new book entitled “Quiet.” The author had an essay in the New York Times Book Review recently in which she discussed the irony, and difficulty, of promoting her book and ideas, such as appearing on TV and giving a TED talk explaining her thesis about introversion and the importance of quiet.

While waiting my turn, I’ve pulled out an old favorite from the late eighties, “Solitude: a return to the self” by Anthony Storr. It’s not the same topic, but there is overlap. Storr made an eloquent case for the place of solitude in a healthy life at a time when the tide of opinion favored social connection as the source and measure of good mental health.

The capacity to be alone might be a better measure of a well-developed mind. Quiet and solitude are both in short supply in our society today. Many people are connected constantly via telephones and social networking Internet sites. And many are essentially addicted to this connection.

If they’re not busy with those connections, or even while busy with them, they might have earbuds in place with personal theme music streaming into their heads.

And yet stillness is a crucial component of spiritual awakening in any tradition. One doesn’t need a life in a silent monastery, but a regular place for quiet in our lives is important if we are to find the margin for reflection and contemplation that can lead to a satisfying life. Shopping won’t take us there. Neither will tweeting.

And you need some quiet if you’re to start memorizing poetry. Speaking of which, The Book Haven will host another conversation by “The Dueling Lauras” —Laura Hendrie and Laura Marvel Wunderlich—entitled “Learning by Heart: the value and possible pitfalls of memorization.”

This will be Tuesday, May 15, at 7:00 p.m. RSVP required. Don’t forget.

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