BootsnAll Travel Network

Embracing silence, closing the blog

This Labor Day weekend, as I’ve been recuperating physically from a double knock-out my body took when I started teaching again, I realize it’s time to close the blog. In fifteen months, this blog has covered more than I ever dreamed it could: first the pilgrimage through Portugal and Spain in the summer of 06, which I’m still incorporating: of all the travels in my long life, that was the most joyful and the most revealing. There, by a stretch of ocean that is unpolluted and clear, on bridges built by the Romans, among people who have no compelling incentive to work more than six hours a day, since they aren’t going to be able to “make ends meet” anyway: I found a spirit that accords with all I believe is RIGHT in the world. The Portuguese adore their children, beat their chests with emotion in public, cry, make noise, grow an excessive number of flowers and grapes, eat with gusto, dance till they drop, and hang out on their balconies sipping coffee or wine and smiling at the passing pageant. That trip was all the blog was meant to cover.

The blog became a comfortable companion, a place to practice saying what was on my mind, a way to publish my writing without having to find a publisher or an agent to say yes to it. I made the blog a way to celebrate other people’s writing, to rave about films, and to think in public (if the thirty-nine people who regularly read the blog can be considered “public”). It brought me new friends. In the spring of 07 I went to Mexico with Gallo and Ansie; to Massachusetts to see old friends and the places where I’d been through the upheavals of my forties. In June Manko moved out; in July I moved to Houston; and then I set out for those two Zen centers. Was that only six weeks ago? Kneeling before rich people’s toilets or hoisting great racks of dishes out of steaming sterilizers, I let go of an illusion. For thirty-some years I had imagined that when I quit teaching I would become a Buddhist nun, or at least live in a Buddhist community where meditation, kindness, and joy were part of daily life. But I didn’t reckon rightly what that would mean, in the USA, in a time of global capitalism, when Buddhism has to make its living the best way it can. My notion of spirituality in practice accords more with the life of a cab driver or museum guide in Portugal than of a priest in a Zen center in the USA. Then the quick, sharp discovery of Portland, Oregon. Portland. Now I think I know where I’m going. But I need to hatch a whole new vision and way of life for myself. Here comes a fork in the road, a turning point, a cliff-edge of possibility.

This weekend I was exchanging emails with my old friend Leif, whining about my fatigue and a sense of being lost in the fog, when suddenly I saw, standing right in front of me, the clear presence of SILENCE. Right here. Now. With me. I don’t have to buy anything, move anywhere, change my diet, or exercise in a new way. I don’t have to light incense, sit on a cushion, recite a mantra, or count to a thousand. I don’t have to wait. I just have to say yes to it.

This comes as a surprise to me. I certainly wasn’t expecting it. But I welcome it, as I welcome most turns in my road, with whole-hearted abandon. I want to lie in bed with silence in the mornings. I want to come home to silence after work and hug it close. I want to shut my books and nestle into the shoulder of silence. I want to turn off the TV and the phone and bask in the enfolding presence of silence. I want to reward my labor with silence, to sneak quickies with silence, to walk in the park with it, sit with it in coffee houses or sidewalk cafes, turn off the computer and luxuriate in its presence, and know it as I have never known it before.

Like most relationships, it is bound to have its highs and lows. I am infatuated right now; later I will seek more balance. I may find it boring (though that seems inconceivable to me now). It may refuse me, I may rebel, we may just be having a fling together, silence and I. I never told anyone I was anything but a terrific short-term lover. Long-term is not a dance I do. But having stepped into its presence, I want more.

Taking a blog break, I discovered not only silence, but a disquieting truth. My blog voice has become dishonest, and that dishonesty has been seeping into my psyche. I’ve been editing myself to fit the blog. In fact I’m a more sentimental person than I’ve admitted here. I cry more. I’m angrier about the war and the degradation of the planet than I ever say. I’m more critical of cell phone addiction (utterly banal public conversations that convey nothing that anyone ever needed to know) and idiotic mass emails full of soft-headed “everything’s going to be all right” bullshit. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but my unvoiced criticisms and judgments leave me irritable and cranky and tired. I feel lost, aimless, dumb. Dumb meaning incapable of giving utterance to a glumness that sometimes settles over my spirit. The blog is all words and the occasional chuckle. There’s more to me than that. There are fogs, tears, fury, loud laughter, and rage. That may be some of my best stuff. In silence, I hear myself again. All of myself. So I’m taking her back. In order to do that, I need to let go of the public voice and all the hours I natter away inside, pre-writing the next blog post. Stop. Be still.

I may start the blog up again some day. Or not. I don’t know. Most of the people who read the blog are friends whose email addresses I have, so if I start the blog again, I’ll let the people in my email contacts know about it. If you think I don’t have your email address and you would like to be informed if I ever crank it up again, send a comment to this post, now or at any other time in the future, and I’ll squirrel your email address away. If my passion for silence abates, and if I recover my own private voice sufficiently that I feel I have room in my life for a blog again, and if I can find you, I’ll let you know.

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9 responses to “Embracing silence, closing the blog”

  1. Lynda says:

    I’m very sorry to hear you’re shutting down the blog, but your reasons for doing so are absolutely inarguable. Silence is sacred and to those of us who crave it, an absolute necessity. And yes, it can be too easy to find oneself speaking inauthentically when one writes online (or talks too much, I find). If you decide to start another blog later on, I would love to be notified. I am angrier than I can say about the same things you are angry about, plus I like a knock upside the head now and again, so you needn’t ever worry about offending this lurking but faithful reader. It has been inspiring for me, 20+ years your junior, to see the passion and vitality with which you embrace life. Thank you for that, and I wish you all the best in your future adventures.

  2. Steve Raymond says:

    I echo the sentiments expressed above, Kendall. Your ‘online diary’ has enriched me in my daily life in so many ways; thank you.
    Please do “drop me a line” / e-mail
    when and if you next publish “public thoughts”, ‘kay? ‘Kay. Best regards ~ Steve

  3. stephenbrody says:

    that’s rather a rosy view of the portuguese, who mostly adore their children only as extensions of themselves, whine because they’re not grandees, go in for breast-beating as cheap theatre, gorge themselves out of indiscrimating gluttony, hang around on the balconies to make spiteful comments about their neigbours etc. Much the same as in Houston in other words, the difference being that here the setting and props are still a bit better and the actors slightly more accomplished from longer practice….

  4. jessie says:

    My Dear Kendall: Though I am sad hear that the blog is being shut down, I am glad to know your reasons. I am a regular follower. I check your blog after my email. I love your perspective on life, how you tune a phrase and sometimes make me cry. I understand your frustration with the war. As a reporter – even as a Lesser Journalist – I am stunned by people’s reaction to the war. A VFW Auxillary woman admitted that she hates Bush and is frustrated with the war. She volunteered at the Vietnam Veterans Moving Memorial when it came to town. “When I see that wall, I ask, ‘How many more walls?'” she said. I was stunned. A few weeks ago I interviewed an Iraq War Vet. He was burned over 60 percent of his body. He lost part of his hand and has extensive burns on his face. As a reporter I had to ask him about that day. His voice strained with emotion as he told me about the IED that blew up the fuel truck in which he was riding. “My driver was killed,” he said. “He was just a kid out of basic. I think about him every day.” When I first started the job I covered a group of Vietnam Vets who talk to high school students as part of their history lessons. It was a stunning conversation. The vets talked to the students as though going to war were a forgone conclusion. I was nearly in tears. I guess my point is this. There is a difference between the politicians who plan the wars and the men and women fight. “This isn’t about politics,” the Iraq Veteran told me, “It’s about them.” I understand your need for silence. I crave it, too. Maybe not Buddhism, but perhaps Quakers? My meeting talks a lot, though. Not much silence there. Kendall, GrannyGold, you have my best wishes. I am still honored that you thought of me along with so many others while looking at the Madonna in Portugal. Thank you. Now I’ll go back and read the whole blog over. This blog is filled with gems. – Jessie, JetGirl, TARB

  5. Steve Raymond says:

    Families often go to the last place that they know their loved-ones lived, once they’re departed; thus here at the interface between expressed-thought and silence, we people are gathering, whose lives have been enhanced / whose passions validated / by your ‘online diary’, Kendall.
    Caterpillars metamorph into butterflies –

  6. Christopher says:

    Kendall, I will miss this blog, which I’ve read delightedly from the beginning! Trust this isn’t forever, and that you’ll come back from time to time, to REFRESH the silence which you seek.

  7. mina olen says:

    another fan from the beginning here… surprised by how sad I am to hear ur shutting it down, tearful even sheesh… how selfish of me!

    A memory of you that has stayed with me: right about when you came on bootnall, I had made a post about an article I wrote being a footnote in some report… your response always stayed with me: “Immortality comes in many forms.”

    thank you so much for sharing ur words, so inspiring and warm and brave… I’ll be reading if you change your mind.

    all the best….

  8. paula says:

    Sometimes when I struggle about something what happens in my life I came back to this blog and read again your words. It helps me….nrNow a tiny question … to close the blog means that we couldnt go back to it in the future and read it again ? If is that that may happens I need to run to buy hundreds sheets of paper to print it….paula

  9. admin says:

    Thanks to each of you and to those who sent emails. I’m honored to have been part of your lives and delighted to have pursued the quest in your good (and wonderfully various) company. My understanding is that the blog will sit here in cyberspace, just as it is, for as long as we want. Not making more words is working for me now. Still in love with silence,

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