Friday, May 3, 2013

Book review: A Book of Silence

Sara Maitland’s book on silence burrows deeply into its subject, in a gentle (so appropriate) and scholarly way. This latter quality could be off putting. There was much about people who I met for the first time in the book but this gave the writing authenticity and for me, a confidence in the thoughts and  arguments cultivated by Maitland during her quest to learn more about silence and silences.

Naturally, it is a personal story, shaped by Maitland’s own brand of spirituality and writerley position but its accessible to others, drawing in a balanced way on silences seekers and their experiences from a wide well.

In places it is discomforting (no bad thing), enlightening (worth a re-read for the learning alone) and inspiring –It left me thinking that perhaps in a busy life I might look for and find some silences of the sort Maitland discusses..

So last night I stood on the terrace, in the silence of the stars, and a nightingale, or maybe two, in the near woods, sang, sang and kept on singing and I gave silent thanks for the opportunity that in this place I can do something like that.

I had spent the day in conversation with a poet friend who lives just north of Toulouse. My visit to her extended my knowledge of the local area  -and added to my navigation along French roads skills. The Garonne, and the Canal provided key points to cross and the town names a small poem  to help me recollect the route … Aussonne, Seilh, Lespinasse  … an assonance & consonance ensemble

Susan and I had a good walk around fields of rye and young corn, admiring the local water tower with its camouflage of blue and white and musing about finding spaces in time and place to read and write. I drove home through avenues of Limes, a second ceiling below the cloudless sky –trees like statues, their foliage lace-like, spring bright, extending to the horizon, and, of course, quintessentially French.

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