an unexpected gift of peace and stillness

How are you doing during these last days before Christmas? I hope you are finding some joy and creating some time for peace and stillness.

On Wednesday we finally did have some sunshine and it was wonderful.

orchid, phalaenopsis, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

My mood changed just like that. And I felt silly for letting something as insignificant as the weather affect me so much. I've been thinking about that a lot. Not necessarily sunshine and moods, but more generally about this time of year and the shortening of the days and what it means for how I should feel and what I should be doing. I think that the lack of daylight makes us naturally less energetic and that at this time of year we should slow down and find (and create) peace and stillness. It's a bit ironic that this way of being is so at odds with the frenzy of the commercial Christmas season. And, if you think about it, it makes sense that this clash will make us feel stressed. So how do we cultivate peace and stillness? It's not easy.

Yesterday was a strange and unexpected day in many ways. One aspect of it was that our Internet went down in the middle of my working on Etsy orders so I went over to my parents' farm to use theirs and ended up spending much of the day there. For a while in the afternoon my dad was tinkering with his antique tractor. Late in the day he came in the house, his cheeks red and his nose running from the cold and asked me if I heard anything. His eyes were shining; it was the puttering of the tractor that he wanted me to hear. He'd gotten it up and running and was ready to go for a drive. I stopped what I was doing and went outside, too. It was just beginning to get dark. There was no wind. A few tiny snowflakes floated in the air, but it wasn't snowing. It was quiet, except for the sound of the tractor. As I drove the tractor around my parents' property, I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace. I noticed the stillness and the beauty of the stark winter landscape. Our snow has melted and the colors are browns and tans and pale, dull gold. Stubble of surrounding cornfields. Skeletons of Queen Anne's Lace. Tufts of tall grass. Some apples clinging to the branches of the huge, wild apple tree at one corner of the property. A pop of orange from bittersweet berries. Green of the pines. For a time my head was clear. No worries. No to-do lists. No clutter or chatter or doubts. It was just me and the quiet beauty of the land. That clarity and peace was such a wonderful and unexpected gift.

So, I'll ask again, how do we cultivate peace and stillness? I know the answer isn't "drive a tractor", but I think there's something to be learned from my day yesterday. Getting out of our usual schedule or work or routine can help. Take breaks. Go out in nature, even when the weather isn't so nice. Meditate (or do something meditative, like driving a tractor). Earlier in the day I went outside with my dad to give the chickens a snack and was reminded, again, of how spending time with chickens is so uplifting.

At this time of year I always start contemplating what I want for the coming year. I hate to call them resolutions, but I do like to make refinements to my life and come up with goals. I assess myself. It's a reminder to try to live the best life that I can. And so, incorporating more peace and stillness in my life is going to be part of that. Meditation, real meditation (oh, how bad I am at that). Reading poems. Yoga or stretching. And just listening to myself. What about you? What do you do to cultivate peace and stillness in your life?

(Oh, and if you're curious about the tractor ride, my brother took a video of part of it and you can see it here).


  1. It seems we are thinking alike at the moment Anne. My word for 2015 is serenity and I am looking to be quiet and at peace with myself over the coming new year. I used to do yoga many years ago. Maybe I should take it up again?

    1. Serenity is a wonderful thought for the new year. Wishing you much of it and joy, too! Thank you for your kindness, encouragement and friendship!


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