The waiting

In the course of a talk given recently, a poet referred to those times of "waiting for something to happen." In fact, as far as I remember, he indicated he was in that position at the moment. He paused. There was a sigh of sympathy from the small audience, most of whom were writers of poetry. Into that moment flowed heartfelt memories of waiting: waiting for something to happen.

As far as I am concerned, this waiting is in two stages. The first can leave me in a state of panic or despair if the second does not arrive with gracious regularity. I refer to those times when the waiting is nothing but emptiness. You search frantically among those inner recesses and find -- a blank. The best thing to do is stop looking inside and get busy outside. The knack of noticing, seeing, and listening soon returns and before you know where you are, you're well into the second stage.

This contains a gentle impetus that stirs and stretches, holding itself in a tension of expectation. At first there is nothing more concrete than that. But the feeling of it, the awareness of its presence, is as real as the purpose contained in the tiniest seed. Like the breeze sweeping across tall grasses, wave after wave, the hope of it is as certain and clear as the sharp blue of sky. The movement is there all the time. As you go through the routine of a day it is stirring. Quite ordinary occurrences come alight, poised on the brink of possible flight. Is it here the waiting will evolve into something: at the fleeting tone of an overheard remark, the peculiar turn of phrase that changes the expected into the unexpected; the way a line of music becomes a moment of ecstasy; an expression on a child's face, the way she clasps her hands in an instant of concentration; the minutiae of the flowing seasons when each brings its unique offering to the one who is waiting for something to happen?

It is during these flashes of recognition that I am aware I am waiting, and confident of a resolution. The challenge lies in patiently accepting, assimilating, and allowing the heart to respond. For this waiting has to do with the way the heart is touched and moved by what is going on round. Too often diffidence and a kind of rigid embarrassment have laid a wire around those heartfelt feelings and it seemed impossible to break through, although the longing was there. This is the supreme gift of a child.

To watch and love the immediacy and boldness of their response in painting, clay, words, actions, their response to whatever attracts their attention, without concern or self-consciousness about how they express themselves -- all this shifts the rigidity. And lifting the corner of the sometimes dreary and heavy drapes that are wrapped around adulthood reveals vivid recollections of those well hidden childhood feelings.

Then is the time to take to heart the moments that are all around in their multitudes waiting, waiting, to be used. Once the first crack in the barrier appears, and the first tentative attempts are made to respond, waiting becomes part of living. Then I begin to write.

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