“For once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language; let’s stop for a second, and not move our arms so much,” wrote the Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda in his poem “A Callarse” more than fifty years ago, when life moved much slower than it does today. He added, “Perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.”
Today, not only do I still treasure Neruda’s words and poem, but I also love the wisdom that he shares that is so needed in today’s fast-paced world. It reminds me of a time, more than 20 years ago, when I had a chance to truly slow down and experience the rich flavor of stillness that awaited me against my will. I had become injured toward the end of the last century, and despite the perseverance and fight I had learned to muster to push on forward—to keep moving—I was forced to stop, to be with this “huge silence” that, as Neruda spoke of, interrupted “this sadness of never understanding” myself.
I look around me now, as the Polar ice caps melt and California and Australia swim in fires; as we consume more; as the old guard of unbridled greed sinks its claws into more power and wealth; and as more and more of the same short-sighted living leads to the destruction of life for all of us on this planet called Earth. And I look at my own busy life, from teaching, writing, and publishing, and I think how special it was to have truly stopped 20 years ago, to have stepped off of that train of life (even if it was by kicking and screaming) and to have sat still long enough, as Neruda described, to “interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves”
For five years, I struggled to walk, and for five years, beginning in 1996, I was forced to listen to a different voice than that of an American culture whose emphasis has been of movement and growth for its own sake. By March of 2001, when I house sat for friends in New England, and remained writing as I continued to heal from pain, I had already faced what seemed an eternal pain. No way out, I was forced inward. Back then, I reflected—as I do now—on those earlier years of stopping, and what it was that sat below the surface wishing to be heard.
Here are a few reflections that may open your eyes to your own inner journey, when that time comes to slow down and be still:
“Permission is in the shadows. Answers are what I have invented, what I have held onto so tightly, in order to fill the silence of myself. The true answers are in the space of waiting for clarity to present its gift to me.”
“There is no judgement when I breathe. I belong to my soul, and I am beginning to realize that I will take care of her,” I wrote back then as an old worn-out part of me was dying (I was only 28 when I began this journey, but I felt much older then). “Love is what we cannot have until we have experienced our own death,” I continued to write. “I have seen death naked in my bed. I have tasted her tears, her deep tears for life. I have felt this deep knowing of what it’s like to not have anything, to have it all taken from you…to be left without fear so I can truly surrender to life and learn to love.”
When I look back at these years, I am humbled at what life’s pain was able to teach me. Those years gave me wisdom and love (and a novel, Child of Duende), which grew within me because I had to face myself, day in and day out, with nowhere to hide. Every time I tried to run from my pain, to solve the problem in front of me, I faced a mirror that was myself…that part of me that is as small as a grain of sand, and as large as the universe…that part of me that is nature, that is life, that is love. Then all the lessons, all the shoulds of this fast-moving train of modern life, shed from my skin, from my bones, to leave me with a delicious taste of a deep silence, a deep stillness where life speaks and continues to speak, even today, when I slow down to listen.
So, as Pablo Neruda wrote at the end of his poem, “Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.”
“Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.”
My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of returning home to the earth inside and all around us. It’s now available in Spanish as Niña Duende: Un Viaje del Espiritu, that’s available on Amazon at Amazon Page or at www.michelleadam.net. It will soon be published by the Spanish publisher Corona Borealis and the Portuguese publisher, Edições Mahatma. It can be ordered at a local bookstore or directly from me (for those outside of the U.S.) as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video
Michelle Adam is an experienced writer, teacher, and healer. She recently published her novel, Child of Duende, after twenty-plus years as a magazine and newspaper writer. Her articles have appeared in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine; Hibernia Magazine, an Irish magazine; Vista Magazine, a Hispanic insert of major national newspapers; and multiple other publications.
Michelle has also been a photographer and artist; has taught middle school students Spanish for the past dozen years; and has worked as a healer and shaman. Michelle has created healing and teaching circles of song and sound, assisting others in awakening the spirit of the earth, “duende,” within them, and creating a space for the celebration of life.