The Shivering Silence
I have always loved to travel. The adventuring energy surrounding the commencement of a journey is so full of a wonderment where anything is possible. This wide-open realm of the unknown is deliciously irresistible. And scary, but in the best possible way.
Typically, journeys are planned some months in advance to minimize the bad outcomes and maximize the good ones.
But what about those journeys we don’t plan? What about those adventures that find us when we’re least expecting them?
Those are terrifying because any and every outcome is now possible.
That’s what we tell ourselves, anyway. Or, maybe it’s just me.
The truth is that every outcome is always possible no matter how hard we try to control the particular journey we’re on.
When Firstborn was a year old, we went to my family’s timeshare on Grand Cayman for a week. I spent a month making lists and packing and repacking and checking boxes and making new lists. I was a new mother traveling internationally with my child for the first time. Nervous doesn’t begin to describe that shitstorm of emotions.
When we arrived on Grand Cayman, I bought Firstborn a giant ice cream cone while we waited for our rental car. After loading into our car and reorienting to driving on the wrong side of the road for my little American brain, we got lost almost immediately.
After about the third trip up Seven Mile beach and probably the thirtieth roundabout, Firstborn’s ice cream cone made a violent reappearance all over our rental car and the rental carseat. We pulled over on a public beach and I pulled my screaming, vomiting child from the back seat, stripped him down to his diaper, and just when I was about to lose my shit and dissolve into tears myself, I saw it. The endless beauty of the Caribbean Sea stretched out before us just beyond a strip of white sand right off a postcard.
We walked down to the beach, he and I and I cleaned him with warm ocean water until his tummy settled, then we went back to the car and rummaged through the suitcase for beach towels and a change of clothes. We finally found the right turn to the condo and that was that. I don’t remember a lot about the rest of the trip, but that day, I remember clearly. This one epic failure that became a moment of pure bliss.
Six years later, Firstborn and I have taken to indulging in Serendipity Days recently. We pick a destination, make sure we have cash, water, a change of clothes, bug spray (it’s Louisiana, folks), and Band-aids and we just go. The rules for these days are simple: All tourist trap roadside attractions along the way must be visited. Tacos must be eaten when available. And the word ‘No’ (within reason) doesn’t exist.
It’s amazing what happens when you invite Serendipity into your life. It becomes easier and easier to search out. It also starts to find you when you’re not looking for it.
There is an old saying in the music biz that true musical genius happens in the notes you don’t play. As a musician, I always took that to mean Discipline and Restraint lead to genius, but there’s more to it than that. Listening to the shivering silence that exists between the notes and allowing it into your perception of the melodies and harmonies that are filling the corners of your inspiration is what sets a great musician apart from a good one.
I think the reason the concept of pure Serendipity is so awe-inspiring is because it is out of our control completely. It lives in the shivering silence that exists between our chaotic thoughts and regimented daily actions. It’s easy to disregard. It’s easy to say ‘no,’ when there is a ‘yes’ whispering so quietly.
And even if you do say ‘yes,’ the urge to shape this bit of Chance into something advantageous for the arc of whatever plan you’ve made for yourself is almost unavoidable.
Staying still and letting the swell of the Universe rise to your feet to wash against you is overwhelming. The beauty of pure happenstance bliss.
And it doesn’t occur very often. And it’s hard to just be grateful for this glimpse at the shape of the world we cannot see. The world that ebbs around us while we plod along the paths of our planned journeys.
When something good just falls into your lap, we are conditioned by a lifetime of soul-crushing disappointments to question the goodness of it.
But what we never ask, at least I don’t, is how many of those soul-crushing disappointments were of our own making. How many times have we seen the misstep and not the breathtaking view that it led us to?
And so, quite without warning, reason, or the hint of a ‘heads up,’ I caught a little bit of the Universe’s divine light a few days ago. And it’s hard just to hold in my palm and wonder at its beauty. It’s so tempting to blow on it in an attempt to grow the flame and not let it catch fire or go out all on its own. It’s hard not to question why it arrived in my hands and not someone else’s. But that is my task at this moment. My task is not to shape this bit of beauty, it is to marvel at it and experience its surprises.
Because now is my time of devouring life. Now is my time of breathing in every drop of wonder and joy that I’ve been given. This is the time of listening to the shivering silence of the Universe and letting it guide me wherever these new journeys lead.
They say that life happens when you’re off making plans. But life doesn’t happen. Life bleeds and breathes and bruises and sweats and screams and if you’re really lucky, life will lead you to a cerulean sea while you’re holding the human being you love most in the world and it will heal you both.