Grandmother Beth's Journal Writings
Written while living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – March, l990
After retiring from business in l989 …I moved there to write, and hopefully regain my health ... after 20+ years of business in Houston. ...
Solitude & Silence
Why am I such a topsy-turvey- roller coaster person? A woman of ecstatic creative highs, followed by caverns of sadness & guilt. Why am I driven to separate myself from everyone, only to be laden by restlessness, feelings of selfishness, and too often tormented self-incriminating whispers of, “You are making foolish mistakes by neglected the people you love the most.”
A great deal of the time I resist this defeating guilt over my need to be alone. Even now, as I write, I recognize this is overt effort to handle these mixed feelings and confusing reactions which seem to be hovering today. When I return to my home in Texas, I really have to call upon patience and hope for wisdom. My words of explanation should hollow to my own ears. While I explain, I find myself searching the eyes and expressions on my children’s faces – hoping to see a glimmer of understanding. It is always awkward. My struggle to chose the right words is evident. And, even if they do nod their heads, smile, or murmur their of sentences of, “I know, it’s okay,” or whatever – down deep inside of me I really don’t believe they can understand, or possibly relate. I know … solitude to them would be a horror!
How can anyone of them relate? I sip my luke warm coffee, let my gaze roam through the lush garden outside my patio door, smile at the chirping of the birds, make a mental side-note that the water on my four burner gas stove has boiled almost forty-five minutes and mull the question. “Relate to solitude?”
I have just taken a break to turn off the burner, wash my hands at the kitchen sink with an old cracked bar of green Palmolive soap, (trying to get yesterday’s residual soil out from under my fingernails – results of three happy hours of potting plants with cuttings from Juanita’s garden,) poured a warmer cup of coffee and settled again at the edge of my round, tiled coffee table. With a contented sigh I slowly lean forward with my arms braced across my knees, and pick up this black ball-point pen to pursue the subject at hand. “Solitude.”
“Beth,” I say, “Think back – how many people have you known that need, or seek, hours,or days and nights of silence – void of communication beyond hello, or bunas dias, noches, tardes or ‘porfavor,’ café negra … and gracias.”
Sunlight just reached down a long morning bar and spotlighted my tall rose bush which, un-groomed and wild – stretches with delight towards the open sky. Three blossoms, pale yellow, swaying slightly in currents of air – seem illuminated from within. Even the leaves around them are translucent in the brilliant sunray.
Only when I am here in San Miguel do I come across the scattering of strange individuals who make their desire to be untouched by other people’s conversation – blatantly evident. It is as though they have erected an invisible shield about their space. They may nod a hello – but, that is as far as it goes. And, if some friendly extrovert makes an overture … throwing words their way … the words bouncing back with a void stare, a turning of the shoulder, a dropping of the eyes, and a set expression of rude, “leave me alone.” It is sort of like a dog I watched in the Jardin Plaza the other day.
A beautiful – huge German Shepherd, leashed and setting at his master’s feet. Silent – brooding man. Silent – guarding dog. The small and naïve, dirty, mangy terrier, and the lanky, hungry, dumb-eyed street hound would both circle – walk slowly by, heads drooping, noses sniffing the ground, while cutting their eyes towards the proud shepherd. But, they read the signs, and had enough sense, (more sense than most of the people I know) to stay carefully out of his space.
I watched. The man stared off through the trees – down the street – and across to the cathedral. He was still – rarely shifted his legs or body – yet comfortable. The dog was equally still. Once settled on the pavement – massive haunches folded – front legs and paws extended – head gracefully raised in “at ease alert” watchfulness - only his eyes moved. I understood. I related. No one approached to settle close on the iron bench and open the faucet of traveler’s questions.
Paradox! Paradox! Contradiction! I am a woman of words! Eloquent. A master sales person am I. A convincer – an evangelist on subjects on which I am convicted and convinced – and at a loss for words to convey my thoughts. I know the thrill, the heady charge of entwining and captivating, entertaining, and the wrapping-up and the leading along of other people’s thoughts – watching their eyes widen and open in understanding and reading their body language as their guard is lowered and they allow me to enter their minds and emotions. I have spent a lifetime of talking. I was conceived and brought to birth by two compelling “talkers.” I learned the skill, the vocabulary, the delivery and the graduated pattern of presented logic and conclusion.
When people are with me – one person – or, any size audience – sooner or later – if I open my lips – the river begins to flow … and I am tired of it all. These later years – I have become a master of the silence technique. My dam stays in place.
Now … I am hiding – here in my little house where no one, not even myself knows the number or address of my street. I have retreated from the talking, grasping world. I chose instead to talk, as I am doing now, with words on a page. My outside door, the one which gives entrance to my patio garden, is strong and locked. There is a bell – a row of buttons to push. My bell is number 8 – but, if someone presses their fingers against that button – I don’t have to answer. They can’t see inside. I can be alone – for days – if I want to dwell in solitude.
Now … if you are reading my rambling morning discourse, do you “relate” to days without words swirling through the air? Days – in which the only words which have life – are inked across the page.
Should I be guilty for my escape to this solitude … this sheltered quiet?