“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” A couple of years ago, someone gave me a refrigerator magnet with this saying on it. A couple of months ago, I threw it in the kitchen junk drawer. You could give me every popular or ancient saying about peace and they would all end up in the abyss of that drawer. Since my mother died, I have found grief and peace to be mutually exclusive.
Obviously, I have a problem. I’ve forgotten what peace feels like. It’s not like I’m living in a complete peace vacuum. I’ve had fly-by, pop-up peaceful moments which are certainly better than nothing, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Grief snatches the lovely ordinariness out of our lives. You know that bone-deep sense of everything being right with the world? Grieving deletes it. Looking for a place of peace in the land of the living is difficult.
However, I had forgotten that I don’t actually have to look very far. A couple of months ago, I wrote about a place of great and timeless beauty where my family has gathered for many years. It was also the place my mother loved best. Therefore, it turned into a place of great pain for me. I did not want to return at all this past summer, but I did. This turned out to be a good decision because of the conversation I had with one of my cousins. He shared his experiences and thoughts with me; they were a gift.
He said, “My father’s pipe is on the mantel in exactly the same spot where he left it the last time he was here. After he died, I didn’t like coming here either. It made me even sadder. Things like his pipe made it feel like a mausoleum. However, time passed and now I understand what makes this place truly special. Most of the time, we are all involved in our busy schedules and routines. Yet we are so fortunate because we get to come back here, to this timeless place. Okay, so now most of us can use our cell phones in the middle of the meadow, but everything here remains essentially unchanged.”
His words remained in the back of my mind until a few weeks ago. Now I have made a momentous decision. I am returning to this place by myself for a few weeks this autumn. I will finish my book in its unchanging solitude and silence. I am hoping the spiritus locum, the spirit of the place, will bring some healing. I’m hoping for timeless peace to find and fill my restless, but timeless, soul.