The Case for Solitude

The Case for Solitude      By Sharon Sheppard

Now that I’m settled in the Pacific Northwest after a lifetime in Minnesota, one of the things I miss most is the gentle quietness that settles in after a snowstorm.  Six or eight inches of fresh snow leaves an enchanting cushion of welcome silence.

It’s a wonderful equalizer.  After a generous snowfall, everyone’s yard looks pristine.  Even the most unsightly mess is now artistically blanketed in white.  Roofs sport puffy mounds of sparkling white that transform even the humblest of homes into quaint-looking gingerbread houses.  And when we venture out, bundled in boots and mittens and parkas, we inhale the fresh, cold air and discover that the outside world has become a fairyland.

Something about this scene transports me from the present to the cozy northern Minnesota home of my childhood.  I can almost smell Mother’s beef stew, a favorite cold weather supper dish, bubbling on the old woodstove.  The stew is a smooth, creamy brown gravy—a tactile treat for the tongue–with chunks of savory beef, carrots, and potatoes.  The bowls are set out, and loaves of bread, hot from the oven, are cooling on the kitchen counter.

The dry heat from the wood-fired range comforts, and my stomach growls.  The trudging has made me hungry.  I cup the palms of my hands around the tips of frigid ears, where my hood hasn’t totally protected them from the sharp wind.

The fresh snow comes with tacit permission to hibernate.  After the stew has warmed us inside we move to the living room, where the barrel stove has been stoked to capacity so it throws rays of heat to comfort our outsides, and we feed our minds with books or crossword puzzles or sections of the Minneapolis Tribune.

The snow continues to fall.  Softly, silently the drifts grow taller.  We look out the window, and we know that tomorrow morning the radio will confirm that school buses won’t be running.

We have permission not to work.  A middle-of-the-week Sabbath.

Author Gladys Taber (1899-1980) said, “We need time to dream, time to remember, and time to reach the infinite.  Time to be.”

Mother Teresa said, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence…We need silence…”

Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz said, “Man cannot long survive without air, water, and sleep.  Next in importance comes food.  And close on its heels, solitude.”

And God said, “…the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Hab. 2:30)    We don’t need a snowstorm to find quiet.  This year let’s resolve to seek a bit of solitude each day to meet with Him.