The Abundance of Quiet

     And suddenly, it's quiet.  It's a surprise, this trough of unactivity.  I am alone in the house; they have all gone out, some to a show, one to visit a friend.  The evening here has laid itself down to rest.  The couch is mine, and I sit down gladly.

      What a Thanksgiving it was!  Meg is home from college, and Andrew and Anna had half the week off too.  There were comings and goings: appointments, lunch with friends, movies, shopping. On the Big Day itself, fifteen cousins, aunts, uncles, and a grandmother gathered around the table. In the door came squash and pies and wild rice and fresh baked rolls, cranberry sauce cooked on a woodstove, salad, creamed spinach – and outside a turkey turned on a spit over the grill in the driveway. Afterwards we played charades in the living room. As they finally rolled out the door saying goodnight, we made more plans for the next day.

    In the morning light, wine glasses remained by the sink unwashed as ten pairs of bread lined the counter and became turkey sandwiches. Two hours later, ten people and four dogs began an ascent of Pleasant Mountain. The lakes and foothills of Maine's western mountains rolled out to the horizon under a blue sky so clear it crackled. We spent the day taking pictures, crossing the ridgeline, eating nuts and clementines and sandwiches, telling stories in pairs on the trail, and even as the sun set on our descent, we gripped each other and the glorious day, unwilling to let go. And we didn't. We came home and piled on the couch to eat pizza and watch a movie, eager to keep the connection going.

     At what point does the hunger for indulging in family and the stream of our activity become gluttony? Sometimes I feel like the Gross Domestic Product, mindlessly pursuing more, more, more.

     But wait: suddenly here I am on the couch; the dog is asleep by the woodstove; there is nothing to prepare for or clean up from; and it is in this moment of quiet, of no family and no activity, that gratitude walks in. It's like sliding out of the current and into an eddy: when you're out of the flow, there is the space to turn around and see the current for what it is.
     It is important to stop. To be alone, with the dog, the woodstove, the night sky, or a mug of tea at the kitchen table before dawn. Don't read the paper or make a list or fill the moment with a screen. Instead, find out if the quiet is full or empty, or if it's soft. Is it the color of cinnamon? Are you in the quiet, or is it in you?

    Outside now, I hear the wind rising; snow and sleet will come tonight. The dog breathes evenly. The refrigerator chuffles off its cooling cycle and the room settles even more to quiet. Soon enough the family will be home again, and I will happily hear their stories burble and cascade through this space. But for now I am grateful for the abundance of quiet circling around me like a blanket, a place of calm from which to finally see clearly the joy of our Thanksgiving.