The Silence, like God, is deep, wide, and everywhere present. For as long as I can remember, the Silence and God have been synonymous with nature. I learned this from my grandfather on the fields of his wheat farm in Oklahoma and during a special fishing trip.
My grandfather was my first spiritual guide, a quiet gentleman farmer who carried the loss of two sons in World War II. His simple, straightforward wisdom was grounded in the seasons and deepened by the weather patterns of daily living. He taught me gratitude was as plentiful as a softly falling rain and faith ever fortified during times of drought. There was warmth and affection in his reverence for Mother Nature and his acceptance of things as they are. He imbued his observations with warmth, humor, and a reminder to always look for a silver lining, the grace in the present moment.
Through his example, he taught me how to find the Silence within. I was 4 the first time I followed him from the house to the old water windmill. We were going fishing, and my day of mindfulness was just beginning. Walking behind him, I mimicked his every move. The clasped hands behind his back. The long, slow strides. Ears tuned to the quiet that amplified mooing cows and cooing doves. Or the brushes of wind that turned the creaky, squeaking wind pump that stood like a giant metal sunflower against a cloud-smattered sky. An old truck was parked next to a water tank filled with minnows.
After gathering the minnows, my grandfather put the bait bucket in the flatbed and me on his lap behind the steering wheel. He taught me to keep both my mind and my eyes on the road ahead. After all, he told me, I was the one driving that old pickup, and we didn’t want to run off the road. When we reached the riverbank, he baited our fishing poles and began explaining to me why we couldn’t talk, why we had to pay close attention to what we were doing because the fish might hear us and swim away. I nodded in agreement—not really sure fish could hear—because I trusted my granddad and wanted to use the fishing pole with the red and white floating ball called a bobber. I was to keep my mind and my eyes on that bobber maybe even closer than I kept my mind on the road. If it went under, I had a fish.
For as long as I can remember, the Silence and God have been synonymous with nature. I learned this from my grandfather on the fields of his wheat farm in Oklahoma and during a special fishing trip.
For most of the morning, I sat quietly. I focused my attention on the gentle tugging and dancing of that little red and white ball. I tried to count the number of ripples it made in the water and how the sun flickered off each one. It became a still point for my busy little mind.
Sometimes I’d get tired and give the pole to granddad. He told me to lie back and look at the sky. He said I could make a cloud disappear if I concentrated hard enough.
Looking back, I know we caught fish. And I squealed with delight. I remember creating fish stories for sharing, but my most powerful, lasting memory was the happiness that came from entering the quiet of nature with my granddad.
Entering the Silence was not limited to fishing and watching clouds; it was part of whatever we did together—playing checkers on the porch, walking the fields, taking in the night sky and seeing if the quartered moon was facing up to catch the rain or tilting down so the rain could flow toward earth and water the fields.
Even in darker moments, such as when my grandmother was dying or my father had a second heart attack, we’d sit at the bedside or kneel in prayer slipping into the comfort—that wide expanse of the Universe—knowing everything, however troubling or painful, is in divine order.
Over the years, through hardships and losses, celebrations and gains, I remember my grandfather’s devotion and forays into the Silence as I’ve puttered in my garden or walked the beach or looked up at the night sky to see which way the moon was tilting. I’ve learned to love wide-open spaces wherever I find them.