Posts Tagged ‘perfection in the silence’

Via Negativa….

February 2, 2012

I have been reading Matthew Fox’s “Original Blessing” and the poem of that name  came from that  reading.  It’s a world and wealth of divergent Philosophy of Theology in this book;  it  intrigues me.  I have been studying the chaos and comfort of Shintoism for the past few years, but being (mostly) Western in culture and thought, this  book of Matthew Fox doesn’t grate upon other philosophies.  It includes them in an enormous and pungent stew of theologies.  Perhaps the issue is to find those things in there that feed and nurture a seeker, as some of us are called.

I haven’t finished this book, but am surprised to find myself reading it every day, in the morning, and surprised  how much it feeds my poetical attempts.  Fox has themes, or spirals of placement here: Via Positiva, Via Negativa, and I think the third one is Via Creativa….I haven’t read that far along yet.

Yesterday I was talking to my 99 year old Aunt Jean, a beloved and very philosophical relative, quick in mind if tiring in body right now.  And only after getting off the phone (she had some class to go to…) did I think of what the Via Negativa could be and probably was:  Aunt Jean was talking about the ‘calendar knowing her age, and forcing her to attend to her years’.  LOL!  Well, the calendar is the same for all of us, and especially in the Winter. She said that all of January she was low in energy, just not able to do much (this from a woman who does much, probably too much!) and I thought this Via Negativa was a perfect process to follow in the beginning of the year, say January to February.

Via Negativa, if I understand it,  (and I don’t deeply) is an acceptance of the Dark, of Silence, of Unknowing, of Stillness, of Unknowing the voice of God, of just Waiting.  Well, it seems that this season, this Winter, is the perfect time to make our peace with the Via Negativa.  Perhaps to gather our energies, to sit and stare out the window at nothing, to draw nearer a low fire, to feel empty and to feel the void around us.  To await the next cycle…or spiral…of Via Creativa, that of Spring and all that means…all that blooming, tender energy.  So a small poem came out of this ‘silent’  path, this new concept of Via Negativa.  It fit the gray outside and and gave some sense to this time.

Lady Nyo


Via Negativa


Winter is the perfect channel

To carry Via Negativa,

No static

Just Silence, Stillness

And the embracing Dark.


On this path,

We sit in contemplation,

relish the early dusks,

No answers,

No struggle,

We empty ourselves of movement.


This time is filled by little outside;

A flash of darting cardinal

Like a stream of blood

racing past our eyes,

The sound of a falling limb

makes us search the skies,

The moaning of the wind

bustling around limbs,

soothes us,

 the rattle of skeleton- bones

Of  attic haunts

does not disturb us.


These are part of this path,

this dark quietude of a particular season.


And yes, Death,

As Winter brings

To those who succumb to frigid winds,

And those lost from shelter.


We spiral into the Darkness,

Where we barely need breath,


Conserve our energy,

And stare outside at such

A severe palette.


Stilling ourselves,

stilling our hearts and thoughts,

We draw closer to low fires,

Scratch our dried skin

Like a monk in a hair shirt,

And, with time and patience–

spiral back into the light of Spring.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012



March 11, 2010

I awoke at 2am, hungry, aware of distant thunder, flashes of lightning closed eyes did not shutter.

Two nights ago I stepped on a small block of wood with a rusty nail that went deep into my foot.  The tetanus shot and antibiodics gave pain and a stomach discomfort and probably disrupted sleep as much as anything.  My sweet brother in Savannah, Georgia writes:  “It sucks to be you”.  Yes, it does right now.  LOL!

(A friend and fellow writer, Berowne, writes to me today to go to bed until December, pull the covers up and don’t forget the helmet.  It seems like a bad year already, but if the ‘law of threes’ holds ….we are in the ‘clear’….we have had our ‘threes’ already.)

I buttered a slice of bread and went into the new Great Room to watch the display of night.  We have tall windows across the north wall, with a ceiling that reaches to 26 feet.  A pointless waste of space really, but magnificent and elegant when nothing else serves.

The almost- silent Winter night casts a pale glow outside.  No electrical lights presume to challenge the peace, for our electricity is awaiting Georgia Power to come in the morning.  A unending two week stretch as  ” Mr. Sparky”  and his boys rewire the house and update the old 1940’s power box.

The trees in the South are huge: Live Oaks and Pecans 120 feet high and 120 years old.  They are impressive leafed out, but even more impressive to my eyes as black, overwhelming giants thrown against the late winter sky.

For the last two nights we have been going to bed with the chickens and using candles for light.  Not a bad idea, the chickens thing, because we are tired and worn with the dealings of strangers in the house and a disrupted service.  The other day I climbed into bed and was taking an afternoon nap when the shriek of a smoke detector made me sit upright.  There were two workmen in my bedroom on ladders and the look on my face, pulled out of a sound sleep, must have been funny.  “They didn’t want to disturb me”, but the smoke alarms had to be ‘primed’.  I had to pee after that, but the bathroom was part of the new master complex, and there are no curtains on the doors yet.  Well, there won’t be either, because my husband ordered beveled doors and the sun from the other windows in the bath make such a beautiful cast of light through them.  So I awaited as long as I could until I thought ” the hell with modesty” and curtains or not……

The holes in the sheetrock and plaster will eventually be patched by Harry Homemaker here, but important things first.  Like sound wiring.

Lying on a couch beneath these tall windows in  the early hours of the morning,  the woodstove flaring with it’s dinner of heavy oak, this being the only other illumination besides the pale sky outside.  On one of the window sills is a heavy cut crystal vase.  The light from the colorless sky creates prismatic colors in the glass, and I wonder at the beauty in the darkness I didn’t notice during the day.  It’s like a lost Aurora Borealis has dipped almost to the ground and minimuzed itself in the vase. My Xmas quilling is still hanging in the windows, delicate paper glued curls my son and I did years ago.  We pack them away in January, wrapped in tissue paper and in a special drawer for finding the next year.  I forgot to remove them, but seeing these white curls against this strange night makes them even more magical.

In some of the windows are china hummingbirds, gifts every Xmas from a long-dead aunt.  They are hung on fishing line and tonight seem to hover in the air, illuminated by flashes of distance lightning.

The kettle is on the woodstove and I can make myself a cup of tea, and then I hear the gurgle of rain.

There is perfection in this late Winter night, and the absence of electricity perhaps draws my eyes and mind to it.  In the morning there will be the disturbance of ladders clanging against the sides of the house as they re-connect the promised service.  There will be soured milk and off-butter to give  my hens and again the cleaning out of the fridge.  The noise of modern conveniences will sound again in their almost invisible harmony: the hum of the fridge, the lights of electronics, but for now, in this moment, there is a a completeness of silence, of darkness, a suspension of time.

Only the natural sounds of a gurgling rain, a flash of weakened lightning and a faint drum of distant thunder intrudes upon my wakefulness.

It is perfection.

Lady Nyo

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