The thunder and rush of waves, incessant and unpredictably regular in the night air, contrasted notably with the steady sweetness of my wife’s sleeping breath. I was awake, and I wasn’t about to fall asleep again for a while. Rather than disturb her by a fitful tossing of my own, I got up to meet the surf outside. In the heavy darkness, the waves dominated my consciousness. For more than a week, they had been unusually high and had scoured the shore of sand. Day in and day out, through the sequence of two dozen tides, they had kept up an unmetered poem that swayed back and forth between the swell and the silent pause. It was in no way restful; even the stillness itself held my soul in suspense, in anticipation of the next crash. The longer the silence built, the greater was the crash that followed. Only after a series of great, booming stanzas, would a few quieter measures follow, recede into another pregnant void, and give birth to an inevitable boom that started the next decrescendo.
On the flats above the beach, beyond the reach of the waves, I lay on my back listening, and let the elemental din resound in my chest; A voice with no intention, no message, heedless of listeners, and yet somehow full of life from the sea and sky. Rolling in from unknown storms well beyond the horizon, the energetic chaos of the elements had been worked into form by traveling over hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles, pressed between the pull of the solid earth and the steady stars. It had been tamed from its tumult of storm-tossed turbulence toward a more regular roll and undulation, urged by still greater rhythms of time and distance. With my eyes closed, I held the image of the roll of waves gathering cadence and focusing power as it stretches toward the stillness of the land. Confronted by such a contrast to their fluid nature, the waves rise in a final concentration of their circular genius, engulf the air itself and throw their form and substance headlong at the stalwart shore where chaos once more, momentarily reigns. Itself sculpted by the endless pulse of waves, the slumbering land releases the now limp and formless water back to the sea to meet the next arriving storm-child.
Eyes open again, the vast stillness of the sky drew me out of my imagining. The stars were out in their ever-increasing splendor, set into the darkness of the moonless night. I stared with widened pupils, and a soul stilled by recent contemplation. The stars seemed ages more mature than the waves or even the earth at my back, their rhythms of rise and fall… steadier than time itself. Scattered without apparent pattern over the dome of heaven, I was more inclined to ascribe their randomness to my lack of understanding than to any lack of wisdom in their placement. The transformation of the storm-tossed chaos into the regular roll of land swells was something I could grasp. I felt a brotherly affection, treading a similar path myself, as I become more truly human. The rhyme and rhythm of the stars was as far beyond my comprehension as the galaxies themselves were. Yet I lived my life by them, waking and sleeping, planting and pruning. The celestial pattern of tides moves entire seas to their beat. To fathom the stillness of the starry vault, I would have to close more than my ears, I would have to open more than my ears.
As I returned to the bedroom, my wife’s breathing stillness and rhythm reminded me more of the orderly heavens than of the snoring sea. Clearly in the arms of greater beings than rule our daytime consciousness, she rested in a peace that I took great pains not to disturb. I lay in bed, falling naturally into synchrony with the orderly rise and fall of her inhale and exhale. This gracious gift from the regions of the stars soon set my heart into its own steady pace, and it was not long before I, too, drifted back to wherever I had been before I had awakened.
Open “Quieting Chaos” Visual Meditation video