“What Sunlight Does”

What Stillness

by Laura Foley


Lily pads ripple in summer breeze,
as if they bloomed for me,
revelation-white clouds float
through a divine blue sky.
No human voices break
the stillness of this hilltop pond
where I come to forget
the foolishness of homo sapiens—
where a trout leaps from the lake,
splashes shining down,
opening a glimpse into
the world below the surface.
My dog, wet from her swim
between the visible and the hidden,
shakes dots of sparkling light
from her dark coat,
forming a watery aura.
What sunlight does to water,
stillness does to us.

From Why I Never Finished My Dissertation.
Headmistress Press, 2019. Reprinted with Permission.

As much as I value silence and down-time, especially when I spend it in nature, I still resist the stillness I most need in order to glimpse, as Laura Foley puts it so well, “the world below the surface” of our busy lives. If I’ve had a stressful week, the resistance to taking time for myself is somehow that much stronger, and this usually ensures that I stay restless, agitated, and confused about what I really need. Here, though, Laura Foley’s meditative poem offers us the gift of pointing out what we can do when we start feeling that way: immediately find a place, perhaps like her hilltop pond, where we can go and be still, simply reflecting on our life while noticing what’s around us. Slowly then—and it always takes more time than we’d like it to—the world opens back up to us, the sky becomes “divine” once more, and each cloud turns “revelation-white,” as we come to see the value of even a short break from human voices and the “foolishness” of our species, so often bent on harming each other and our planet. Spaces like these, separate from the bustle and noise of crowds and news, are necessary, and it’s a good idea to have at least a few go-to places where you can let your soul settle back into your body, until you see again the “sparkling light” of water shaken from a dog’s coat, and you’re reminded once more to let the light of stillness do its work on you.

—James Crews

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