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Keeping Quiet

April 23, 2010
  
Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda
   
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
 
This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

 
It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

If we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

 
From Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon
Translated by Stephen Mitchell 

  

  
I was just riding again in the woods this afternoon and these words of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda came to mind, about stillness and quiet…
    
‘If we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.’

 

As I began my ride, I tried to ride quietly softly through the woods. There was such calm and peace in the woods. My bike gently rolled along the mulchy, sandy paths. The tires make a reassuring soft hum as they traverse the gravel. My ears register the strange quiet in the woods. It is of course, broken from time to time by the distant sound of cars passing on a ring road outside the park, or the frightened rustling of a startled squirrel, or the sweet, chirps and whistles of birds singing above. But above all I am struck by the silence. It is so quiet that I feel that I can actually hear the wood speaking to me. Speaking not through words, but through silence, quiet, peace, the breathing of the forest as I gently rumble through it, a visitor, who comes from outside the wood. Yet, a human who feels at home in the woods fresh air, forest aromas, fragmented light and peaceful green foliage.
 
I feel that the woods welcome me. They welcome me into their world of natural growth, not forced, not planned or deliberate, simply the response of living things to an environment of water, warmth, wind, soil and light. Here in the woods things grow, live and die, They don’t try to influence you to be something else, something better or more worthy, or more correct than you are…they are simply quiet – the fresh air and clean fragrances, the silence simply welcomes you. The woods invite you to take part in the rest from plans or agendas, projects and sales, shopping and winning, competing to beat our neighbour, colleague or friend. There is no competition, just the ebb and flow of death and life. We all will die, the question is will we actually live.
 
I am embraced by the wood – first and foremost, it’s simple, pure silence. I die for a moment to myself. For a few seconds I return the embrace and breath in and out the quiet and fresh air. I am nobody. I am nobody special. Simply, a very lucky man…who gets to ride his bike in the woods on a sunny afternoon. Yet, it is a welcome relief. Here in the woods there is nobody to impress or convince of my worthiness. I need be absolutely no one. I am no one important and yet…the silence of the wood seems to welcome me. She welcomes me …as me…as David…as the wounded young man with a history, that I am. A man with a history…yet, all that which the world and society weighs and measures…seems to mean nothing in the forest. Here is just me and the woods. Nothing else matters…just be quiet, David.
 
Just be quiet … still … listen … to the silence.  
 
 
 
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