Thursday, April 3, 2014

Seeking Stillness ~ Creating Community

Seeking Stillness

Do you have a sanctuary?  Do you have a place where you can be still?  Do you have a place where you feel safe?  For me, my physical sanctuary is my study, which is also the guest room.  I have carved out two little corners for myself in this sanctuary.  One corner contains my small desk where I write.

The other corner contains my reading chair.

Throughout my life, I have always had to have my solitude.  Along with that solitude, I've always needed a place where I could go to close out the world and connect with my inner world.  I connect best to that inner world through reading and writing.  Without stillness, and that place where I can just "be," I would never be able to function in the world at large.

Despite my need for solitude, and stillness, I also thrive on the energy created by other people around me.  I could not be happy if I were not a part of community.  In my need for solitude, I am not a loner.  I am a "people person," yet, I cannot always be surrounded by people.   Ironically, while I re-energize and heal through solitude and stillness, I find that I am also building community through the reading and writing that I do in that solitude.

This morning, I had a Bible study to attend.  That meant that I needed to up no later than 7:30.  I planned on getting up at 7:00.  My husband also needed to get up early, so he had set an alarm for 7:00.  I had a rough night.  Late in the day yesterday, my gallbladder had acted up. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by nausea.  I heard the alarm at 7:00, but I ignored it.  At 7:20, my husband came into the bedroom to gently wake me.  I appreciated his nudge.  I then asked if it had snowed as was predicted.  "Yes, but there are no school closures yet," he said.  So, I pulled myself out of bed and made my way to the shower as my husband checked the church website and the church school website to see if anything was posted saying that the school was closed due to the snow.  If this had been true, our Bible study would have been cancelled.

I know it is the third day of April, but we had snow today, lots of it.  After my shower, I walked into the kitchen to get my coffee that my sweet husband had already made for me and looked out of my kitchen window.  This was my view:

My decision for my day was made as soon as I put together a few factors:  it had snowed quite a bit; I still was feeling quite nauseous; I had not slept well; and, I am having surgery tomorrow.  Tomorrow, after a year of quite a few gallbladder attacks, and more testing than one would ever imagine, I am finally having gallbladder surgery. I decided today was a day to stay home.  

"I need to just be still today,"  I told my husband.  "I need to take the time to rest up and prepare for tomorrow."  My husband fully agreed with my decision to take the day to rest.

And so, today, instead of building community with the lovely ladies in my Bible study, and instead of being able to spend some time with one of my best friends, I chose to take the time to do some reading and some writing.  I chose to connect with the community that I find in books.  I chose to connect with the community that I find through blogging.  

Today, I chose Mary Pipher's book, Writing to Change the World, for my reflective text.  This book was on my bedside table because I had recently retrieved it from a bookshelf downstairs to use in preparing for a writing prompt for the monthly writing time I have with my writing partner, Iris.  From my notes in the margin of the book, I learned I had first purchased this book in July of 2007.  Mary Pipher, a favorite non-fiction writer of mine, and author The Middle of Everywhere:  Helping Refugees Enter the American Community, had through her excellent book on how to be a cultural broker provided me with one of the great texts I had used when I was teaching in the area of linguistically and culturally diverse education at Colorado State University-Pueblo.  Just after I retired, I found the book she had written in 2006 on writing and decided it could become a great text for my retirement years which I hoped would be filled with time for writing.  The inspiration I used in writing today's blog post, came from a portion of a chapter title in Writing to Change the World: "Seeking Stillness/Inspiring Action."

I've been mostly retired for nearly seven years now.  At times, I can't believe it has been that long.  I truly did hope to spend a large portion of my retirement days writing.  I thought I would be able to sustain the discipline of having a schedule similar to that which while I had while working when I began retirement.  Knowing my personality, this was really a very preposterous idea, but I did have hope that I would do so.

Today's Reflection:  Creating Community through Reading, Writing, and Blogging

Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes.  One enlarges and enhances one's world by reading.  One creates an community of character's in one's mind through reading.  One visits other countries, centuries, and cultures through reading.  Reading, just for reading's sake, has never been the driving force in my reading life.  I read to connect to the author, and to the characters in the story.  I think much of my life is about building connection; therefore, I read to build connection to myself and others.  

Blogging, when was the first time you heard that term?  For me, I have a very distinct memory of when I had first heard the terms blog and blogging.  I must admit that I had no idea what either word meant.  I was meeting with the English Department Chair at CSU-Pueblo when he spoke of blogging.  I would imagine that the year was 2005.  As a program coordinator in the Education Department, I was hired to write the curriculum and develop the program where teachers and pre-service teachers could take the classes necessary to add an endorsement to their teaching certificates that would enable them to teach  linguistically diverse (ESL) students.  The process of writing the curriculum and creating the endorsement involved, among other things, building a strong relationship with other departments.  During my meeting with him, Dr. S, almost as a side note, mentioned how he was quite fascinated by blogs and was thinking about how to build them into the English curriculum.  I smiled, tried to act as if I knew what he was talking about, wrote the word "blog" in my notes, and said, "Yes, that is an interesting idea."  When I got back to my office, I did a Google search of the word, read a bit about blogging, decided it made no sense to me, and filed the idea away in the back of my mind.  I had no intention of building blogging into the curriculum I was writing.

In 2007, I read more about blogs in Pipher's book Writing to Change the World.  Chapter Fourteen, "Blogs - A Revolutionary New Tool,"  gives the reader a short summary of the history of blogging and includes a brief assessment of blogging and how people all over the world were using blogs to give voice to all sorts of social and political concerns.  She also speaks of blog  "building communities, sometimes international ones, of people who do similar work."  (p. 221)

It is interesting to note that in the margin of the book next to a paragraph about how blogs provide instant self-publication opportunities that seem to "emphasize self-reflection and social commentary," I drew a * in the margin and re-wrote the words:  self-reflection and social commentary."  (A * in the margin has always served as an indicator to me that this is an important point to remember from my reading.)  At this point in my life, blogging was purely textbook knowledge.  I saw its value as a way to connect to the world.  I even saw its value as a writing tool, but I had not made it a part of my life.

As I initially intended when I began my day today,  I have spent time in my sanctuary where I came seeking stillness.  I have rested, and I have read.  In my stillness, my inner being has been been at work.  My thoughts have given way to expression through writing.  This is the natural process for me.  It is one I have followed for many years.  But now, I write not only for me in my journal, I also write on my blog.

I first began blogging in response to becoming a part of our family blog in June of 2008. This private, family only, blog was created my daughter Keicha, who now writes her own blog at O-townramblings.  Our family blog was an active, happy part of our lives through much of 2008.  Soon, our exchanges on Blogger were replaced by exchanges on Facebook.  I miss our family blog.  I wish we would resurrect it and use it again.   Like many other things in the life of our family, our family blog died a quiet death after the death of our daughter and sister Julie in 2010.  The header of our family blog contained this quote:  "AMONG THOSE WHOM I LIKE OR ADMIRE, I CAN FIND NO COMMON DENOMINATOR, BUT AMONG THOSE WHOM I LOVE, I CAN: ALL OF THEM MAKE ME LAUGH." W.H. AUDEN  Perhaps, after Julie's death we just could not find ourselves able to tell each other our funny stories.  I don't know when we began to have funny stories again.  Did we ever have them again?  There was just too much sadness, heartbreak, and unfortunately, we soon found ourselves isolated from each other when we needed each other the most.

I began my own blog on June 28, 2008 in response to a class assignment when I was taking a semester long class through the Southern Colorado Writing Project.  I did not post another entry until November 4, 2008.  (Click to read that post.)  It is clear from my writing, that my target audience was my family.

Today, April 3, 2014, I am writing my 299th blog post.  Today marks a milestone of sorts.

I have not only spent my day seeking stillness through reading, I am sharing my day via my blog.  Through blogging, I have welcomed others into my inner and outer world.  I did this quite by accident.  I could not have created this special community to which I belong through any sort of design of my own.  In some miraculous, serendipitous way, I have found myself a participatory member of the larger community.  When I seek stillness, or healing, or laughter, or support, or new insight, or friendship, I do so by sitting in the corner of my sanctuary at my desk.  Here, I connect to myself and to others across several continents by writing and by joining in the blogging community conversation.  How would I ever imagined all of this when I first heard the word blog?

And, so, as I prepare myself mentally for tomorrow's gallbladder surgery, and for the recovery time that I will have after the surgery, I find it interesting that I not only feel it necessary to tell my closest friends about the procedure, but I also find it important to share this information with my blogging community.  I hope to be back reading and writing soon.  In the meantime, know that your friendships have sustained me and enriched my life more than any of you could ever imagine.


  1. Oh, there is so much to respond to here.
    First, yes, I need solitude. Now that I live in a quiet house ( empty nest)I find solitude in several places: my recliner in the family room, at the desk top computer in our home office upstairs, at the kitchen table where I spend an hour over lunch and the newspaper, and in summer, on the patio. Solitude is spent reading, learning, and blogging, like you.
    I find that I think often about sharing with mt blog family, and in turn I like reading what my blog family has to share.
    I saw your snow on facebook, but now I know so much more, that it was one of several signs that you needed to take the day for yourself.
    Let me be among the first to wish you well tomorrow. Surgery is a big deal and you will then face recovery. I sure hope all goes well and you will soon be sharing your experience with us, your blog family.

  2. I'll be sending positive thoughts your way tomorrow.

  3. I feel the same way about our blogging community. It has been a blessing to get to know you and the other Vashonistas. We never would have connected if not for our blogging.

    I'll be thinking of you tomorrow. I haven't had my gall bladder for many years and I don't miss it a bit.

  4. I am thinking of you as you go into surgery. Your reflective post is lovely. I have sought moments of solitude throughout my life and I can take my mind right to such a place even in a crowd if I need to. I have to remind and prompt and sometimes even push myself to be social.

  5. praying that your surgery goes well today. I love reading your blog post. You always share from the heart.

  6. I am like you in feeling like I am a people person, but one who also thrives on time to myself.
    I enjoyed reading how you started blogging. Mine also started as a family blog and then I started really enjoying the larger blogging community.
    I will be thinking about you today and hope the surgery goes well and that you are feeling much better soon.

  7. Wishing you a smooth surgery and easy recovery. I am gallbladder-less and don't even notice it is gone except that I no longer have belly aches. You will like being on the other side.
    Just a lovely, thoughtful post that I could relate to quite well.

  8. I'm sorry you missed that Bible study and time with your dear friends, but I know of what you write. Time alone is my refuge in this hectic world. When I was teaching, my journal posts were often frantic pieces saying, "I just want to sit and think." Now that I have that time, it is precious indeed. I know you feel likewise.

    As for the surgery, I pray that God heals you quickly and gets you back on your feet. You've gotta a lotta livin' to do.

  9. What a beautiful post about the power of reflection, solitude, family, and inner peace. Congratulations on all you have achieved. You, my friend, have truly lived through a nightmare and yet did not shut down and shut the world out. Instead, you reached out through blogging to help us all make sense out of this world. I send many prayers for you for your good health and a smooth surgery tomorrow.

  10. I did appreciate your thoughtful post. I know just what you mean about needing a place to be still and reflective in. Mine is a corner of the living room where I can sit to read or to watch the birds in the garden outside.

    Wishing you a successful operation today and a good, quick recovery.

  11. Those of us who blog regularly have seen the world change through so many perspectives; and that alone has been a great motivator. Sharing one's life, a day, a moment, with someone who lives thousands of miles away is like leaving secret messages inside tree trunks. We hope someone sees them; we hope someone will write back; we hope to maintain that secret lifeline to strengthen our resolve to share our voice. The miraculous part is hearing from people who have shared similar circumstances, people who can now give you a hand in climbing back to the land of the living.

    You have done that for me, Sally. And I'm so glad to know you.

    (The surgery is quite routine these days; the problem is all the pain you've had to go through before the medical people could settle on the causes of the pain. Same stuff happened to my husband.)

  12. Sally, I am reading this in the afternoon of Friday, your surgery day. While we are separated by several hours of time zones, I hope you are now in recovery, that all is well and that in this case, at least, you are on the road to recovery (and out of the recovery room!)

    I'm privileged to be part of your blogging community and to be allowed to walk with you through the life journey you have and will continue to experience -- and to allow you to walk on mine. I'm so very glad you found this venue for your thoughts. I feel all the richer for it.

    Another book you might enjoy as a meditation is by one of my favorites -- Anne Lamott -- and it's titled "Help. Thanks. Wow." It speaks of prayer in a way only this writer can.

    From one solitary soul who craves interaction to another!

  13. Yes solitude is very important to me. The solitude & satisfaction I find flyfishing on a quiet stream in Bluff Country or camping in the mountains of Montana. And then in winter blogging provides a similar feeling, writing and creating stories. It gives me a quiet sense of satisfaction when people tell me I made them smile...:)

  14. Yes, I, too, require solitude and have a contemplative space here at home. Sometimes it's my office, or the patio. Sometimes it's our bedroom.

    By this time your surgery should be done. I hope your recuperation is a quick one.

    Please contact me if you need an ear or a shoulder. K

  15. I imagine that it’s all over by now and you are on the way up again. Gall bladder ops are no big thing nowadays, if done by keyhole surgery. I had almost no pain afterwards.

    Being solitary in a special place is absolutely essential for me. A place to withdraw to and be quiet in is one of life’s necessities.

    Blogging is a strange activity, neither literature nor letter, but it gives us all so much pleasure and being a part of this community adds a whole new dimension to life.

    Good luck. Hope to see you recovered in no time.

  16. I'm reading this late and am sending healing thoughts to you. I also enjoy solitude and quiet, reflective times. I'm somewhat an introvert and avoid crowds if possible. I'm most comfortable in the company of family or people I consider close friends. However, I have embraced many blog friendships - sharing with people all these years, even if I've never met them face to face, has made me care about their well being. Take care of yourself, Sally. I'm thinking of you.

  17. Sally, Hope the surgery went well and you're on your way to a rapid and complete recovery. I think for a writer having both a time and a place for solitude is essential. Peace.

  18. Good decision to take of yourself first and foremost. Thanks for the reflections on blogging. They mirror mine and I feel a similar gratitude. Good luck on your surgery. (Written from my favorite chair next to the french doors in the living room with mu iPad on my lap as the sun shines in.)

  19. Indeed so much to respond to in this beautifully written post. Solitude and community - i relate. From what I gather while in solitude, I give more when in the community.

    " I thought I would be able to sustain the discipline of having a schedule similar to that which while I had while working when I began retirement. Knowing my personality, this was really a very preposterous idea, but I did have hope that I would do so."

    Hahahahaha! I so appreciate that!

    The sharing of life through blogging. I think my blogging followers often know more about me than my own family. Also, has served a purpose for my family of men to understand me.

    My reading of this lovely post comes a two days after your surgery. I hope you are doing well and recovering. Such a poignant and important post. Thank you for sharing.

  20. Praying for your surgery to be done good. Nice to know about you through this blog!

  21. I need solitude, too. Lots of it, in fact. I hope your surgery went well and you're now good as new!

  22. I hope that everything went well and you're feeling much better. I had my gall bladder taken out in 2006 and have been very well ever since. It's a great operation. Looking forward to hearing that you're finding the same.

  23. Oh, my goodness, Sally! I hope your surgery went smoothly and that you're well on your way to a full recovery. My sister had gall bladder surgery last year, so I have some idea of the miserable lead-uo to surgery. I hope you're feeling better already!

  24. I am pleased that you took that day of rest before your surgery. The snow looked nice but I’m sure it was better for you to stay indoors and warm. I hope your surgery went smoothly and that you are now resting, writing and reading. Blogging creates a wonderful social outlet and enriches us all.

  25. I know that by now your surgery will be over, but I'm still glad you took that quiet day of rest beforehand.

    I very much enjoyed this post and the first three paragraphs would apply equally to me and my needs and nature. I love hearing how my blogging friends came to start their blogs. Each of us had our own path and yet here we are, members of a worldwide community.

  26. Although my husband enjoys solitude, I get lonely awfully fast. I like people around me. My daughter is like me and my son is very like his father.

    I learned about blogging when I was in Egypt in 2007. There was a young Polish astrophysicist who was blogging about our tour adventures every chance he got. I thought I might like to try it, but didn't really get started until my dear friend in Israel, Dina coaxed me into it. It really is the most wonderful thing, isn't it? I love the connections it's given me, all the points of view, friendships, knowledge. And you know I've loved meeting you, Sally.


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