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  • Lisa McMinn

Out of Deep Silence...


It’s raining. Of course it is. This is Oregon in January. But today, during a spell Oregonians call “misting” I headed up the hill with Oliver. We both needed to get out of the house to move our sluggish bodies. Besides, even though rain fell from the sky (graduating to drizzle and then light rainfall before reaching home again), Oliver exclaimed (as he is prone to do, and always with exclamation points), “It’s 52 degrees! This is an invitation to romp! How can we decline? We might not get another balmy day until May!!” He has not yet experienced a May, so I do not know how he arrives at such conclusions, but I’m trying to listen to what he has to say.


We encountered other creatures that didn’t seem particularly bothered by the wet; maybe the balminess tipped the scales the other way for them, too. The auburn cow (whom I call Ms. Brown) and her black calf (Mr. Black) sat under a Douglas fir, chewing their cud and holding us in their gentle gaze as we walked by. Mr. Black stood, as he usually does when we pass, ready to bolt if 10-pound Oliver decided to chow down fresh beef for lunch. Ms. Brown shows less concern, choosing rather to watch us with her observant yet half-slumbering attention.



The rain didn’t deter a flock of European Starlings either--stocky birds that fly in large family groups and are considered invasive in Oregon, which is a fact I’m overlooking at the moment. They settled on the ground of L’Angolo's vineyard and conversed with squeaking and squawking voices until, in unison, they rose in wet velvety silence to move in some choreographed dance to another part of the vineyard, descending back into the chatter of multiple loud conversations. In the five minutes it took to walk by them they soared and descended about that many times—silence punctuated by chatter. I wonder where their cues come from, and how they know to bank left or right, up or down, so as to avoid collisions in the air. I wonder if navigating their way without catastrophic airborne consequences requires silence.


We humans don’t experience silence overly much, except maybe those who live far enough away from cities or go to Quaker meeting houses where silence is worship and partaken in regularly. Maybe our collective decisions as humans rising into action would be less catastrophic if we introduced silence into the process--a deep silence that allowed us to attend to how those with whom we lived and had our being moved left and right and up and down.


What kind of humility is required to be silent long enough to see the movement necessary so this big collective to which we belong might move gracefully and honestly and mercifully and lovingly in the world? What kind of cooperative listening and engagement does that choreography require?


Maybe first that we speak less and attend more to what lives and moves beside us. People, sure, of course, republicans, democrats and independents, poor and rich and those in between, white and colorfully hued. Maybe it also includes attending to creatures and ecosystems who also manifest something of God as they go about the work of being cows, flocks of birds, forests, mountains, and oceans.


In this day where discourse tends toward high word counts chock-full of vitriolic critique of the Other, perhaps we need a deep silence that encourages reflective critique of ourselves, and what is being asked of us by this great beautiful community we call home.

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© 2019 Lisa Graham McMinn

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