Adventures in Imperfection

Still

I first wrote the following post five (six?) years ago. Two years later, I was fortunate enough to publish it in Front Porch Journal. Since then, the words have sat quiet on my desktop, stored in dusty forgotten files; labeled under electronic icons, or on seed packets. I write every day, but I don’t as often feel the need share my words.

I’m content to be quiet. To observe. To read. To listen. To be still.

Like many of you, I find a word (or two or three) to define how I want to shape the upcoming year. Last year my word was Finish. I didn’t write about it, and I only told three people. It worked! A story for another day.

For now, I’m going to be silent while you read. Perhaps you’ll share your word of the year in the comments. I’ll sit still and learn 🙂

*****

Still

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Writers collect words, phrases, journals, and photos. When I hear or read a word that strikes a chord, I scribble it on whatever medium is available at the time. Sometimes it’s a scrap of paper or a napkin or a grocery store receipt. When I’m pretending to be a poet, it’s a leather-bound journal. I treasure words that trickle like music from the tongue or that resonate like a whisper as you’re falling asleep.

After years of cultivating this habit, I’ve built a bountiful bed of bewitching words.

Unspoken. Dalliance. Essence. Contrail. Talisman.

Most of these dulcet delicacies won’t appear in the lines of my stories. Using them would feel pretentious and inauthentic, and portray me as a more sophisticated writer than I am. Instead, I stash them away like precious metals and only unlock the glass case when I want to indulge in decadence.

Like right now.

My day job requires fifty-one percent travel (I did the math!) I spend winters in the not-so-tropical Midwest and Rocky Mountains; fighting deadlines, healthcare reform issues, and below-zero wind chills. Summer doesn’t offer a reprieve, as the snow morphs to sweltering heat, dog-day humidity, and ill-tempered personalities. At the risk of sounding like an unappreciative employed professional, the travel wears on me. Reading a private anthology of lovely words is a creature comfort, like baked potato soup. I often fall asleep with journals scattered and tangled in the tousled hotel sheets. Sometimes I even wake up with bad poetry imprinted on my cheek.

During a late January trip to Idaho, I found a word. The word. It sat, unassuming, scribbled at the bottom of different pages in two of the three writing journals I’d tucked into my travel bag.

Still.

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The word acted as an anchor for memories that gasped for air in their quest to stay at the surface. A story wove through my thoughts like gold and crimson strands of silk in a tapestry. That night, the threads continued to tangle and break and rejoin as I ate supper at a deserted diner nearby. I was crafting prose in my head, sipping on lousy wine and eating pot pie, when the old-fashioned grandfather clock behind my booth began to chime. Westminster chimes, just like Big Ben. Goosebumps invaded my arms as I was whisked back in time to my Grandma and Grandpa’s home.

As children, it was a treat for us to spend the night there—camped out in front of the living room fire by their towering, beautiful clock. From her bedroom, Grandma could hear us (siblings, cousins, friends) giggling long after everyone was supposed to be asleep. She’d come out in her robe, no dentures, and shush us.

“Be still!”

When it was just us, she’d say, “Be still and count the chimes. Make sure the clock is right. Listen to the hands ticking off the time. You’ll never get those seconds back. Lie still and listen to them.”

And I would.

In addition to hoarding words, I also photograph still-life subjects. To get the perfect shot, one has to move quickly, and sometimes manipulate the subject to capture something ethereal in ordinary items.

Many of my friends call me a hummingbird—never stopping to perch, rest, or eat. So many times in my life, it would have paid to be still. To let problems work themselves out, permit kids to make mistakes, allow relationships to happen. Or not happen.

Still is the ultimate opposite of my nature. I am the antithesis of still.

Instead, I’m a fixer and a flutterer and a smasher of unfinished sentences. I can’t stand unsaid words, unaddressed conflicts, or uncomfortable conundrums. I am swift to swoop, soothe, and say anything to steady a situation. For all the times I got it right, there were more instances when it would have been wiser to remain quiet. To stop and let the storm blow over.

Let the sentence stay unfinished.

Such a simple, one-syllable word with so many quiet, subtle meanings:
Shhh… be still.
Don’t you love how still the night is?
Let’s lie still.
Would you please just sit still!
Finally, the wind is still.
You are still my dearest and best friend.
I love you… still.

This rediscovery of the word still opened up a promise from my heart that night. A commitment to let others do their work while I refrained from rushing in to fix every hurt. To curb the urge to pinch-hit and take every curve ball thrown in the dirt. An oath not to smooth over, whitewash, and manage things with smothers or fidgets. To let situations evolve before I address them, and help with problem solving only after others have tried first. A pact to pick the smallest word in my journal and make it mean more than calligraphy on a page or a capture in a photographer’s frame. A solemn vow to be still.

Even if it’s not in a hummingbird’s nature to do so.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. Exodus 14:14

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55 thoughts on “Still

  1. Still is a beautiful word and a great word for the year. It’s good to sit still in a world that is rapidly moving. It’s good to picture the world like a still life and be mindful. Only 365 days on calendar and I wish you can be still when you want to, enjoy the moment before moving to another, and be present where you want to be for as long as your heart desires. Lots of love and best wishes. – Archita

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mmmm. Still. Feeling that one in my bones. One of the more bizarre things about being rewired from the inside out is being able to hold my tongue so much more easily than before. (I’ve really put my foot in it a time or three). To not have an immediate urge to donate my 2 cents, whether requested or not. And to easily sit back and listen, even if I disagree.

    Because of going between the spin cycle and riding an endless internal tilt-a-whirl, leaving part of me here and the rest of me there, my word for 2019 is coherence. That I may gather up all the bits and pieces into the new me and begin walking forward again. Metamorphosis ain’t for sissies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan – you just gave me goosebumps. I’m saving your response because what you’ve outlined is what I aspire to.
      Love coherence – lowers my blood pressure just thinking about what you will accomplish ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not me. But, you might take a look at today’s Storyteller. I talk about words and musical words. Oh wait. Lyrics. Hopefully, you’ll tell him about that too so I won’t have to hide the next time we are in Kansas. I can’t run so fast anymore…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A beautiful post, Michelle. I recently became aware of the phrase “to hold space for someone”. The word “still” reminds me of this phrase. Last year’s word was “Time”. A special anniversary, special birthdays, the fragility of life and how do I want to spend precious, priceless time. This year the word “content” continues to surface. A state of peaceful happiness. I am listening to this whisper.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment reads like poetry – insightful and soothing. I love your words – time and content – certainly fits your soul.
      I have a post from you sitting in my inbox – I’ll be over to visit soon.
      Thank you for taking the time to read, Erica ❤️

      Like

  4. I read somewhere that being still doesn’t mean “don’t move”; but rather “move in peace.”
    😘
    ***
    while you worry about what each note means,
    the band plays on.
    you are running from a dog
    who only chases because you run.
    turn and face him.
    though you hear the buzzing of the bee grow louder
    be still.
    do not fear a sting you have never felt,
    you just might be a flower.
    do not worry
    about things falling into place.
    where they fall
    is the place

    “Be Still” by Mark Hartley. Via Attentional Fitness Training, 2008. © Mark Hartley.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love this word, both in meaning and because it’s one-syllable poetry. My word for the year has not chosen me yet. Although I’m leaning toward brave. But I feel like I’ve been brave over the past few years. We’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I LOVE Brave!! When you settle into the word you choose, I hope you’ll write about it. As always, I learn so much from others.
      So awesome to see you here, Kay. I’ve been away for so long. Xoxo

      Like

  6. I don’t have a word for this year yet, but reading your words has stirred something in me, like the sediment of a dormant life billowing up into this one. It reminds me of how words used to be so central and so vital. They’ve dried up, crumbled, become dust.

    Thank you for the memories xxx

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Awh thanks. I feel as if I am too busy living to document it at the moment, and all my writing is ending up in uni work. Still, there’s a season for everything, right?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. As I was reading this I realized that I’ve missed your words – the poetry of their gentle emotion on the page … or should I say, screen. Reading this was like being gently rocked – while the world was quiet and still around us.

    Still … it’s a great word. I love it 💕 I also love the photo of the journal page. You’ve captured an unusual perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww…thank you, Joanne. I have been away for a bit, and I do miss reading everyone. That’s why I love seeing you on Instagram. And, thank you for your kind words. I worked on that photo for a long time in a hotel room. Only after I shot the picture did I realize a misspelling in the background 🙂
      Thank you for being here, Joanne. I will be over to read at your place soon. I’m eager to get caught up!

      Like

      1. Ha! I didn’t see any spelling mistake. I was too intent on the structure of the photo 🙂
        You do know that the spelling mistake now makes your journal look that much more authentic, right? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this word…Still. And I remember this post, and STILL love it! I thought about doing a word of the month this year. We’ll see if I stick to it 😉 January’s word (one of my favorites, and probably yours since you wrote that piece in that anthology all about it) is GRACE. It makes my soul still just thinking about it. ***Hope you’re doing good and had an awesome holiday with the fam. Love you, girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Grace….that makes my heart sing. It’s so fitting of you and your sweet soul, Charissa. Suddenly, I realize how much I miss our regular little talks (even if via e-mail!).
      I hope you had a great holiday with you and your family, too. Xoxox
      PS: I wrote this post (and took that photo) while I was in Idaho Falls. It’s one of the reasons why I think about you when I read this post. You’re my Idaho/Utah girl 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I miss our talks too. I think of you often when I see your Instagram pics (they’re always so creative and beautiful). Ah, I miss Idaho. I’ve adjusted to Utah, but I miss the vacation spots in Idaho–they were way more lush, beautiful, and less crowded. Every time we talk about camping, I want to drive a ton more hours to get to Idaho spots. 🙂 Hope your kiddos are doing great! Love ya.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks sis! You’ve challenged me to come up with a new word… every year it seems my word is patience, and I can’t decide if I’m making progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Still” it is for 2019! A marvelously powerful word which our society could take to heart once in a while. I think, especially now….
    Beautifully written Michelle. You have a gift… telling a story and setting a stage for one to ponder a meaning, a memory, or experience, uniquely their own, while seeing it through your words.
    I wish you good fortunes…being “Still” in 2019.
    Talk soon.
    KB

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awwww…thank you, Karen. This word may not surprise you. It fits into the advice you gave me at the end of last year. Like all of what you share, I took it to heart and let it settle in.
      I can’t wait till you start blogging – you are an eloquent writer.
      Love you. Sister!!

      Like

  11. Soo.. of course, as always, your words echo my heart. It is so weird how we think alike. “Still” is a powerful word and one I have heard my ENTIRE life… “Lord, child, would you just be still for a minute!” permeates my brain from various people from my mother to school teachers.
    True story… in first grade, my teacher Mrs Bolin, who loved me… got so frustrated with me that she sent me to the principals office nearly every day. No exaggerating! Why?? Because I wouldn’t/couldn’t “be still”. I got my work done long before my other classmates so I would get up and roam around the room to talk to others. She was exasperated with me so.. off to the principal Mrs Powell (who was as old as Methuselah and chain smoked) to sit in a chair in her office. I had my own chair. I would walk in and she would shake her head and point to “the chair” and tell me to sit down. After a little while, Mrs. Bolin would fetch me back to class and apologize for sending me there but she just didn’t know what else to do with me. She really did love me. She was never mad, never raised her voice and told me she loved me, she just didn’t know how to get anything else done in class.. LOL!
    Still is an awesome word and one I will allow to sit and grow for a while…. I think I need it too! 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg – your STORY! You and I are kindred sisters, and not often still. But, I also think we are mindful and open to new experiences – maybe we can find a quiet chair and sit together – no need for teacher supervision. Xoxo
      Ps – I feel a flash fiction loosely based on the truth emerging from Mrs. Bolin. I love that she loved you ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Here it is mid-February, and I am just now discovering your blog. I have relished the opportunity to sit a spell, be still, and read your beautiful writing. You are definitely inspiring, and I am delighted to add my name to your followers. You posted in January, ” Perhaps you’ll share your word of the year in the comments.” I will. My word is “Intentionality.” I wrote about that on my blog back in early January. I intend to live each day, each hour, each minute intentionally. Breathe the seasons as each part of every day progresses. Live with an attitude of gratitude with a response of generosity, forgiveness, obedience, and integrity… intentionally. Finding your “Be Still” is part of the gift and reinforcement for this day. Thank you! I’ll be back!

    Liked by 1 person

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