Van Morrison wrote a song a few years back called, ”Alan Watts Blues” in which he sings, ” Well I've got to get out of the rat-race now, I'm tired of the ways of mice and men, And the empires all turning into rust again. Out of everything nothing remains the same, That's why I'm cloud hidden…Whereabouts unknown.” A few weeks ago I knew it was Time - it’s that tug deep in the heart that needs to step off the grid and disappear into solitude. And with church-mice being billionaires compared to me, I had to get creative with how it was going to happen. It helps to have friends with high places – the place in question is a cabin near the Sangre De Cristo Mountains sitting at around 10,000 feet, tickling treeline. The huge plus is that it has no internet, no phone, no TV – which, also, meant I could have died and a few weeks would pass before someone thought to look for me, if at all (a not so huge plus, maybe?)
I drove there on the front edge of a blizzard, nearly sliding off the dirt road in mud and snow. There was so much snow that I had to park on the road and hike about ¼ mile up to the house in knee to waist-deep drifts with food and clothes on my back. Twice. Not to mention, the snow was blowing sideways. There were a few times I wondered if this was such a good idea, if I hadn’t lost a few more marbles than necessary. The wind blew and the snow was so constant through the night that apparently it knocked out the power in the valley and I woke to a powerless place….
A place which was, also, the state of my soul by then. And this can be as good as any place to start breathing again. As Richard Rohr said, ”It’s the things you cannot do anything with or about that tend to do something with you.”
That much silence, that much solitude takes some adjustment. Buechner nailed it: “it was the silence, which we usually find so awkward. We're embarrassed; we're afraid of silence because we use words so often not to reveal who we are but to conceal who we are. We hide behind our chatter. In silence is a kind of sense of being stripped naked.” Being stripped is an apt way to describe what I went through those first few hours, and days.
The week before I made this journey into isolated silence, I was caught up in this show on Hulu.com called ”Day Break”. It revolves around this detective who wakes up to a day in which he is framed for murder and everyone he loves gets killed or hurt, the day ending with him apparently part of a bigger conspiracy than he knew and seemingly nothing he can do about it. The catch is that when he goes to sleep, the same day starts all over again when he wakes. So, the show is about him trying to figure out all the moving parts of the day and maybe if he does this or that, changes this or that aspect of the plot, the day will finally end and he gets on with his life.
I was captivated by this show because without knowing it at first, I was resonating with his frustrations, with how futile it felt some times for him; his going to sleep thinking he figured it out only to wake up and it was still the same day. By the end of the season I was so invested in him finding resolution, finding the next day, because maybe, just maybe, it meant I could find the Next in my own life and get on with living.
It was in this space that I entered silence and solitude. Wait. No. I fought through ridiculous conditions and obstacles to get to this silence for my life. And, then, I knew a bit of what T.S. Eliot meant when he wrote, ”Oh, my soul, be prepared to meet him who knows how to ask questions.”
And for the first time in months, I woke up to a new day…