Listen to the Space Between

A path through the woods in autumn.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.


Dear Friends,

At Cranaleith, the crickets chirp loudly in the meadow behind the historic house, in the space we are actively turning “wild,” crisscrossed by winding pathways Fred (core volunteer) has mown into the deep, tall grass. In 1897, Amos Dolbear found that the rate of the crickets’ chirping directly correlates to the ambient temperature of the air. Cold? Slow chirps. Warm? Faster. Try it for yourself. Count the number of chirps in 14 seconds, then add 40 to find the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. You will find that our little crickets are intimately connected to the very air that surrounds them.

As I listen for the silence between each sound the cricket sends, I think about years ago, when I taught college students how to read English Literature. When you read poetry, I would remind them, when you try to interpret its meaning, it is essential to listen for the “gaps” between the words and the lines, the moments of silence we call “caesuras.” Those pauses happen sometimes in the middle of the lines, more often at the end. They disrupt the forward rush of the words and the text, but, I would tell them, it would be in those silences between the words where the meaning of the poem could be heard. In the pause, the rest, the breath. In music, a caesura creates the brief small silence, during which metrical time isn’t counted. Even now, I try to remember to pause when I give a public talk–to breathe just a minute, feel the power of that silence. In architecture “spatial breaks” are found in porches, courtyards, entryways, staircase landings. Architects refer to them as “leisure spaces” or “buffer places”–like the first-floor lobby in Cranleith’s Conference Center, a place to stop, talk to the volunteer greeter, read the words of the mystics printed on the posters framed on the wall.

Last week, Bernadette (Director of Facilitation and Strategic Partnerships) led an orientation for the professionals who are serving as the “Deans” for the new programs we will soon be offering as “Communities of Practice” for education, business and health professionals. She asked them to reflect for a moment on their own experiences within their disciplines in their career and identify three times each would have liked to have been able to pause. In each instance, how would pausing have helped? The room grew quiet. The Dean of Education described the importance of the pause in the middle of each lesson, allowing the “wait-time” students needed to find their way to answer the question being asked. The Dean of Nursing shared how she learned in those very early years in her long career just how important it was after a death to pause–before doing all the medically necessary and important tasks– to turn to those grieving, first. Ask them what they needed at that moment, listen to their answer.

In this quiet, “in-between” place that is Cranaleith, let’s find a way to “be still”–to listen for meaning and hope. Let’s pause for a moment, stand in the meadow and count the crickets’ chirps.

In Mercy,

Dawn Hayward

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