Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Keeping Quiet

It's the end of the quarter, thank goodness.

I am tired!  We have finals this week so I've been grading. I'm about halfway done. I'm doing some of it from home; we ordered a new bed and it's coming in two pieces. The first arrived on Monday; the second was delivered just an hour ago.  There are a million things going on. I'm trying to wrap and send gifts and do these other things. G is Amazoning his eyeballs out.  He's really adept at online shopping whereas I am still a novice.  And we work out every weekday. Eleanor isn't feeling well so we both are keeping an extra eye on her- she goes to the veterinarian on Friday for more bloodwork.  Poor kitty.

So I'm tired and busy and stressed. Sometimes I feel like I need a time out.

I will really miss my English 250 class. There are only 11 students, and we've become quite the close-knit group.  We talked this morning, I gave back some papers and then I talked about how we never have time - never make time- to just sit and be quiet for awhile.  As you can see, that applies to me too.  Our phones were buzzing and ringing and everyone turned theirs down.  I dimmed the lights and asked everyone, including my writing tutor and co-teacher, to put their heads on the desk. That's probably not something they've done since 5th grade.  Then I read them a poem by Pablo Neruda called "Keeping Quiet".  Here it is:

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda. (trans. Alastair Reid.)
And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still. 
For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much. 
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness. 
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands. 
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing. 
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death. 
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.

Afterwards, I left them in silence in the darkened room for maybe 3 minutes.  Nobody seemed to need to move. Nobody shifted or surreptitiously packed their bags.  Just quiet and friends and a few moments to ourselves as a group.  I was pretty touched.  We all hugged each other on the way out the door.  No doubt we will see each other again, but not in this way, not in this context.  

Here's hoping you have a few quiet moments of your own. 


  1. I do like quiet times. That is why I am up early every morning. With the ice storm the past week, it seemed the whole Dallas area had a quiet time. Silence - no cars out and about. Loved it.
    You must have a really great relationship with your students for them all to cooperate with your request to just be still. It seems a difficult thing for most to do these days.
    The teapot and beautiful cup make me want to have a cuppa tea.
    Merry Christmas. I hope your Eleanor will be feeling better soon.

    1. Thank you! Merry Christmas to you too!
      Miss Eleanor is doing better today. She didn't move around much yesterday but seemed to be back to her old antics this morning. She's going to the vet tomorrow!