“April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
Heinrich, at the organ, can vouch that, being a member of the tenor section of the choir, I am not exactly prone to moments of silence, much less, reflection.
But I attempt both today. To begin, a memory: it is December 24th 2012. Two hours before the Lessons and Carols service, and I am sitting alone in the choir loft. Like a deep gasp before the big storm, the chapel prepares for the service by purging: one by one, people file out of the building until I am by myself.
It’s an extraordinary experience, the deafening silence of King’s Chapel. Initially, it seems to be buzzing with sound: the hum of lights, the footsteps and alarms outside. But soon all that dissipates, leaving nothing but austere seclusion. Imagine yourself apart, on the eve of Christmas, on the verge of jubilation, swathed in solitude--nothing to listen to but yourself.
Silence is important, it turns out. Every year, I’m interrogated about my Lenten practices. Initially, they were a way to demarcate the season, to remind myself that it is Lent, and I told myself that when I could keep it without the reminders, they would slowly fall away.
But I found that I fell in love with the Lenten table I set at home--to experience the palpable hush that falls over the house on Ash Wednesday and broods until Easter. And perhaps you, too, can find the beauty in it--it is a season of morels and ramps, of planning the garden and watching the crocuses push up through the thawing soil, of germinating seeds and cutting the first and final flush of daffodils for the dinner table. None of this, I know, is profound in itself, but it’s these meager moments--these interstices between everything else--in which I find myself again, or remember to, at least.
Every year, it doesn’t seem to last nearly long enough. Soon, we will all be called again. Soon very deep, very profound things will happen. Nails will be driven in, stones will be turned away--events that will set in motion a deep schism in one of the world’s oldest religions, and will challenge our fundamental notion of what divinity is. But for now, in these dwindling weeks, we are left alone. Alone to reckon with ourselves, alone but for the company of mushrooms, flowers, and silence.
Winter kept us warm, indeed.