I have fallen quiet. You wouldn’t know that if you heard me on a podcast or a webinar (or even my first radio morning show), where I jabber away with abandon. You wouldn’t know it if you sat at the dinner table with me as we took our nightly round of gratitude or talked about our days. But you’d know it if you watched me participate silently in a webinar I’m not teaching. You’d know it if you looked at the looping doodles that pass for words in my journal. And you’d know it by looking back over the blogs I wrote in June and July and the first half of August: a grand total of one.
Now I’m quiet in a different place. We are among the lucky few who found a way to leave our everyday lives behind on a kind of working holiday. With Aria squirming on my lap and all of us and our luggage crammed into a rental car, we have driven through London traffic, through the chunnel on a sweltering car-train, through the French countryside, to a week in a medieval house in a medieval village in the middle of a heatwave. We stopped first in Noyers because we fell in love with a house on Airbnb (seriously — check it out) and then fell in love with the village the house was nestled in. Then a half-day’s drive through brown fields turning to green, rolling hills turning to spikey mountains, and we are in the Alps for a few more weeks, although time seems to move in fits and starts unconnected with days in the diary.
Now I have space to stare out the window and go for long walks, the first week my body dripping with sweat; the second week my lungs pumping at altitude. I thought perhaps there would be a torrent of words that were building up, the lahar that would burst and overflow with the sentences and paragraphs of stories of these last months where I have been too busy to even hear myself speak. But whatever hibernation began in this Covid world continues. The grand vistas leave me awestruck and silent rather than poetic in my descriptions.
I tell myself that this is ok, that the silence is the silent work of a seed, white threads slowly pushing down, the green shoot not yet visible above. I push my toes against the rocky ground to feel the roots, push words around on a page to see the sprout. But I am reminded of the impatient days as a little girl when I would plant watermelon seeds in cups of dirt on the windowsill and then poke my chubby little fingers into the blackness to dig them up nearly every day to see if anything was happening. I am only slightly more patient now. What is growing in me in the quiet?
There are so many Stop signs in my mind, so many places I do not allow my thoughts to wander. Where will we spend Christmas, and with whom? Impossible. What will the US election bring? No way of knowing. What will the fall be like for Aidan at school? The job search be like for new graduate Naomi? Who knows. Filling my mind is the echoing out of questions that circle back and back and back, fading eventually to silence. The answers will only be lived into each day, never glimpsed from down the trail.
Is this what makes me so quiet, even to myself? Was all of my thought the chatter of prediction, now lost in this Covid world?
Perhaps what is left to me now is pure description without plot. The marvelous house we stayed in last week in sweltering Noyers, its thick medieval walls our ancient air conditioning. There the walks had to be finished by 10am, when we took refuge in the shade of the town centre and we had iced tea and long conversations at La Porte Peinte, owned by the fascinating woman who rented us our magical house. The market in Chablis was crowded and scorching by 9am as we peeled off our masks and took our bounty home to eat meals of fresh vegetables in the little courtyard of our ancient house.
And now it’s tiny Le Planet, a motley collection of chalets with views of mountains in every direction. This morning the Chamonix market was freezing and quiet at 8.30, when we came home with bags overflowing with fruit and vegetables, cheese and olives. We wander out along mountain paths at any point of the day, ricocheting between tank tops and puffer jacket as the sun moves above or behind a mountain.
There are many things to say after this long quiet. There is musing about what I am learning about the way leadership looks now. There is exploring what is happening in my heart and mind as I plunge more deeply into understanding the profound shifts that a more inclusive world would offer. There is what I have learned from the many podcasts and webinars I have been hosting or attending.
But today there are green mountains climbing to grey climbing to white. There is a blue sky that fades to rain and back to sun. There is a growing puppy on the floor beside me, her antics too charming to scold. There might be no lahar here, no flowing burst of words. But perhaps as I walk along these trails the words will trickle out like a mountain stream in August. Let’s see.