I woke up this morning to the sound of birdsong.
The sun wasn’t risen yet, but the night was giving way to its advent. The shadows were beginning their long run to the west.
I sat for a long time and just listened to that sound.
I imagine to the rest of the world that I looked asleep. I have found that sometimes I listen better when my eyes are closed. I heard the birds greet the day, that glorious song, the harbinger of brighter hours, full of joy.
I smiled, imagined them in their branches, on the wing, perched on the fence post just outside my bedroom window where they often rest, chirping, twittering, trilling, and fluttering.
I was afraid that I would look lazy lying there listening to joy, but I couldn’t stop myself from soaking up just a little more. When I glanced out to see them, the sun a little higher, the sky a little lighter than before, they were just as I had imagined.
And they were more than I had imagined.
It wasn’t all joy and gladness that brought about their song. It was defense and duty as well. A chickadee was chirping while she and her mate drove a blackbird away from their nest. The intensity of the battle didn’t diminish the song. It only made it louder.
A few skirmishes were waged over oats dropped to the ground from a child’s hand during evening chores last night. What the horses missed the birds will consume.
From another fence post, some 7 yards away, a sparrow was singing his heart out, competing with the bird outside my window, declaring his place in the world. Farther out two ravens were grooming themselves and each other on the top of the barn and a meadowlark was perched on a corner post overlooking the hayfield.
I treasure those moments.
The moments of stillness. Of beauty. The moments when I am afraid that I appear lazy to the world.
I treasure them and I look for them.
Last night I stood by the same fence post where the chickadee sang this morning and watched the sunset with my husband. There are deeper, brighter, and more glorious shades of gold in the sky than anything that can ever be pulled from the ground, and I value them more.
I stood and watched the colors, clouds, and mountains.
Ears nearly closed, as much as possible, to the sounds of the rest of the world.
I often prefer to take my senses singly. To concentrate on one so well that I can bring back these moments of beauty with total recall and live the joy again and again.
And yet there is always that tug of guilt. That fear of being lazy.
There is a push and pull inside me to slow down and take more time to touch, see, feel, hear, and taste the wonders of the earth. And running right alongside it the need to create, to show, to speak, write, and grow.
There are voices that crowd my mind, telling me to get busy or I’ll never get anywhere, reminding me that I’m not there yet, chastising me for standing still and wasting time.
Wasting time just hearing.
Wasting time just seeing.
Wasting time just being.
But it doesn’t feel like a waste of time to me. It feels as if this is the purpose for time in the first place. As if the realization of beauty were the reason I’m here. And it is not a waste of time to open my eyes and really see, to unstop my ears and really hear, to yank the fear of failure out of my heart and truly be.
To be an artist is to be a window; to create a clear view of what already exists in such perfection that it can never truly be recreated. But we try anyway. We try anyway because there are some people who go through life and never really see, they never really hear, and they never really feel the beauty, wonder, majesty, and glory of it all. And we want so badly to share it. We want to frame the world in such a way that anyone, anywhere, can look at what we have created and say “Oh, I see the world a little better now.”
To be an artist requires time spent looking lazy; but it is not laziness. It is potential energy just waiting for a good connection to be made. Store it up, ponder it in your heart, play it out in your mind; every brush stroke, every word, every note, every score, every nuance of texture, shape, or shading in the artwork you create. When you are ready, and sometimes when you are not ready but the time is right, throw open the shutters and let the light of what you’ve felt shine out.
And never apologize for treasuring those moments of beauty. Stillness is a gift, enjoy every second of it. It is the stillness that gives us strength to move.