Did you know that if you are quiet and still enough, you can hear the sound of leaves falling from the trees?
That’s what I heard as I lay on a lounge chair in the corner of my back patio last Sunday afternoon. I closed my eyes, rested my cheek on my two hands, curled my legs into my chest, and listened to the leaves fall.
As the warm breeze blew the leaves light as petals from the tree at the edge of the street, I heard their gentle tap on the roof, the whisk as they brushed the window panes, the almost imperceptible crackle as they cascaded onto the concrete.
I felt them, too. Honey locust leaves tickling my legs and arms, landing on my hair and face as the warm wind skimmed the length of my still body.
When I opened my eyes, my head still resting on my hands, that’s what I saw from under the arm of the lounge chair. Honey locust leaves falling like shimmering confetti over the backyard, the whole earth blanketed in gold. It was so quiet, so still, it was almost as if I existed in another realm, in another state of consciousness altogether.
“We long for the evidence that there is more to life than what we can see and touch and feel, but how often do we pause in our physical, practical paces and let ourselves be spellbound by the living Spirit?” Erika Morrison asks in her book, Bandersnatch.
How often indeed?
For me, never. Or hardly ever.
I’ve always assumed I don’t have access to the Holy Spirit in the same way mystics like Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena did. I’ve always assumed I can’t experience the Holy Spirit with the exuberance and ecstasy of the mystics and the touchy-feely Christians. I’m not made that way, I figure; it’s not in my wheelhouse. I’ve always assumed I’m too pragmatic for that kind of mysterious, magical melding of the Holy Spirit and me. The Holy Spirit speaks to me in other ways, more practical ways, I often tell myself.
And yet maybe I am not experiencing the Holy Spirit in this otherworldly way because, as Erika puts it, I’m not pausing my physical, practical paces. Maybe I’m not allowing ample opportunity for the “supernatural realm to pierce my earthly life.”
Rarely do I simply be. Rarely do I sit and let my thoughts slow and sink down deep. My brain is always firing, planning, strategizing, almost like it can’t or won’t turn off. Even my “quiet time,” when I read the Bible in the early morning, is productive, for heaven’s sake. I journal. I take notes. I jot down verses. I make prayer lists.
I think the real reason I resist coming to a full stop is because I am afraid of what might happen, or more specifically, what might not happen, if I do. I’m afraid I’ll expect something and be disappointed when I don’t find it or receive it. And so I press on, bent on making my time of quiet and rest productive and useful and safe from all disappointment.
I didn’t plan that glimpse of gold I got on Sunday afternoon. It just happened that way, the perfect synchronicity of a warm afternoon, quiet reading, sleepiness, a comfortable place to lay my head. But when I paused my incessant practicality, when I came to a full stop and yielded to the moment without expectation, without any thoughts whatsoever, I was spellbound by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the warm wind, in the falling gold leaves, in the whisk and tap and crackle, right there in my own backyard.
Last Sunday, all creation exhaled autumn gold, beckoning me to exhale with it. Wide-open and quiet, I lay still and received.