Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Timeless Time

These are changeful times for many of you.  Sherry and Julie, I see how rapidly your lives are changing.  It is strange how we often do not choose our changes.  I suppose sometimes we are thrust into choosing ways outor ways inwe would otherwise be powerless to choose.

Julie you asked a question that I have often been asked at presentationsWhat is a typical day like at Innermost House?  It ought to be a simple question to answer, but it is strangely difficult.  I have tried to answer it a number of times in writing, and trying has taught something about the answer, and something about the difficulty. 

Any ordinary day anywhere proceeds from beginning to middle to end.  That is the difficulty.  At Innermost House time is different.  I do not mean that afternoon does not follow morning, and evening succeed afternoon.  Of course they do.  But there is another way in which all are present at once in every moment. 

We have spoken of what I call Timeless Time.  I don't know exactly when that phrase first arose in my mind.  I cannot even remember a time I didn't think of it that way.  It is like the name Innermost House.  It came of recognizing something I had always known, but had half forgotten.  Timeless Time to me means two things equally; it means Timelessness, where there is no sense of passing time at all.  And it means Time, not this or that time, but All Time. These two things are one in Timeless Time.

This is the time of Innermost House.  I am unaware of time passing, of things done or things to do.  And I am aware of an allness of time, of everything at once in the present.  Michael says I didn't use the words Timeless Time before Innermost House, though I associate it as much with our Conversation as I do with the house.

Timeless Time is as far as can be from any routine or schedule, though our days are punctuated by patterns.  It's like a child's day, where time is marked outwardly by events, but remains open and unmarked inwardly.  The child doesn't think of it as routine or schedule or ritual or any other defining agenda. To her it is simply good time, whole time, at-peace time.  It is before-the-world-begins time. 

I have sometimes wondered if the institution of the Sabbath is a kind of remembering, or a trying to remember, that time before the world began.  It is a holy day, a holiday from the condition of outward events in time. 

So to speak of an ordinary day at Innermost House places me in a position outside the house itself, looking on at events in an external way.  But I have often thought in these late months that I am between houses now for this very reason.  I want to try to speak now. 

It is strange to begin by speaking of electricity, but for us the way into Timeless Time was paralleled by our way out of electricity.  I think it is hard to overestimate the subtle effects of electronic culture on our lives.  I at least find that when I am in the world I take electricity for granted.  It is uncomfortable to do without it, and it is hard to see around it.  It touches everything, beginning with the fundamentalmost thingsdarkness and light, night and day, heat and cold.  To me living without it in one room at least was the beginning of regaining a timeless relationship to time among the common things of the world. 

Living without electricity is something we made our way to very slowly, almost imperceptibly.  Our many searching moves made little changes much easier.  We were so often thrust into the opportunity to change.  Innermost House is the first home we ever occupied entirely without electricity, and it concluded our long approach toward Timeless Time.

At Innermost House we wake just before first woodland light to the sound of the birds.  There is a great silence in that sound, a stillness that will remain with me through the whole day until it gives way to the stillness of the evening.  

My first thoughts are most often of the Conversation we shared the night before, perhaps by the fire, or perhaps that stirred me from sleep in the middle of the night.  It is all present to me in an instant, but I do not remember the words.  I only feel the peace of it, the healing.  At the beginning of the day my first thought is of the end of all things in the Conversation.

In the summer our mornings are cool and in the winter they are cold, so we most often have our first meal in the warmth of our loft.  First we wash a little and take our seats by the hearth.  

There Michael serves us a shared piece of roll and some of the red wine from the previous evening.  It is a kind of solemn celebration of waking together into Timeless Time, a reminder that, through all the difficulties of our life, we have always been grateful and happy in our married Conversation. 

My husband speaks briefly very much in the way he concludes our Conversations with guestsalways spontaneously, always movingly.  Between ourselves first thing in the morning we are not asking questions, but beginning with answers. 

We have breakfast in bed upstairs in the loft.  That may be a key to passing into Timeless Time!  From out the window there we can watch the waking life of the woods, where Sabbath time is renewed each morning.

After breakfast the day begins, but it is a long beginning.  We are half the day at it.  In a real way nothing is ever much doing and nothing much ever gets done in Innermost House.  Somehow the floor gets dusted, a little outdoor work like gathering branches or cutting wood, or checking for mice nests or sweeping the porch gets done.  The fireplace ash gets cleaned and a new fire laid. 

We write, or take a walk, or sit and talk.  At any time of the day or eveningor in the middle of the nightsome thought may occasion a Conversation, and then everything else is set aside until we have explored it through.  Conversation has always been the first priority of our life together, and it is always beginning and always ending.  

Through our years on the farm we had very little need of income, and that was supplied by clients my husband preserved from his days in the design world.  If he has calls to make they get made out of my hearing.  

We have an uncooked meal at midday.  It seems the day is no more begun then it begins to end.  But it is a long ending.  The evening reveals itself only very slowly.  It is patient, and I am patient for it.  

I prepare dinner and set it to cooking over the coals.  Cooking for us is so simple that it even took me awhile to believe it.  One pot, no recipes, two bowls, wine and water.  We always have our dinner by the fire.  Perhaps that is another key to Timeless Time.  

In the evening after dinner Michael will take us through our nightly ritual of preparing and serving tea.  This is a quiet time, accompanied by the calls of night birds, a reflection of the morning.  He boils the water in our iron kettle over the coals, then pours it over powered green tea into earthen bowls.  Just to see the white steam rushing out of the black bowls in the candle light is the most vivid experience.  And the silent graceful movementsthere is no time and all time in it.  

Then we sit together between our wall of books and the fire and we talk. Sometimes we read aloud to each other.  Through most of our evening we are burning four or five candles at once, and we gather them around whichever of us is reading.  As the evening draws toward midnight the candles are put to rest one by one, gradually.  The room grows slowly darker, the night deeper.  

These hours between tea and bed are our hours of deepest Conversation.  We may talk until any hour of the night.  We may talk until dawn.  We have wakened each other a thousand times to keep vigil over our beloved Conversation.

I cannot inwardly count the days of our lives or the passing of the years.  One day succeeds the next, each one different and all the same.  In a way it is all the beginning, all the end.   



36 comments:

  1. That sounded about as blissful as I can imagine Innermost House possibly being . . . not one mention of hardship or irritation.

    Do you and Michael not face some irritation with the weather, wildlife, wet wood, each other? How do you handle that in close quarters? I am not trying to poke the bliss. I am very serious as I alone have moved into 120sf (electricity-no water) for the winter and my wife and I are exploring tiny living together in the spring.

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    1. D. B., is there some place we can read about your tiny living experiences?

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    2. Oh yes, D.B.! That would be such FUN.

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  2. Watching a clock and doing things at a certain time every day just seems out of sync to me. Of course, I have to get to work at a certain time, but the day really isn't at all rigid. I know what I need to do and have plenty of time to do it. Actually the Timeless Time is really a revelation, though. I don't face a rat race every day, so I can invision a day like you describe. Last night for example, was the first time in a long time that I didn't let time dictate what I did. I got sleepy and looked at the clock and it was 10:00. (It is hard to totally wean away from looking at the clock) But, I was tired and went peacefully to bed and I would have done the same without seeing the clock.



    At the very first of the post you mentioned the seemingly "forced" changes that Julie and I are going through. Yes, there is much change, but also, there is just a lot of struggling to keep things simple and to continue on. But, deep inside I am feeling change everyday. I am experiencing doing things on my own. I only have to answer to myself. That is totally new and at times totally freeing and even exhilarating! I have to be careful that I don't feel guilty! Many of these things just take care of themselves.

    But, it is very difficult to have a conversation with myself. For that reason, I don't plan to spend the rest of my life alone. Eventually, I will be looking for someone to share meaningful life with. I think it will be different than with my late husband. That was a time of being the playful children that we missed when we were young. My next phase will be more deliberate, thoughtful. Needs change as we as we go through life and I am going into the "age of wisdom". I will probably have to have a remedial study for that! :)

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  3. Dear, dear Diana! I have walked back and forth in my house since the first light in one of my so-called "trances" after reading what you've had to share today. You've taken me back in time and thrust me forward at once. I have looked over and over again into the mirror of your words and discerned something in my own face that I've not recognized before--that I have, and have always had, what could best be described today as a singular talent for the "moment". For a moment is not, after all, an increment of time but an occurrence IN SPITE OF time; A pearl of great price that some of us will forsake all else to obtain.

    I thought of the movie where Forest Gump's mother, on her deathbed, tells him that "Life is like a box of chocolates; You never know what you're going to get." I can agree with this EXCEPT that now we do KNOW that it's going to be chocolate, and we do KNOW that it's going to be sweet. In the same way, we never know what one "moment" of earnest Conversation is going to yield as TIME passes by...though we know that it will be good.

    Here is an example from my own past: During our homeschooling years, my sons and I would lie about all morning in our P.J.'s and yack about whatever they wanted to yack about. You might know that they developed quite a gift for the gab, thinking always that they were tricking me into putting off their school work...but all the while, I was considering this daily period as the first "class" of the day and giving the A's for their hard work. (Tee-Hee! Who was tricking who?) For their part, they had a habit of Conversing among themselves after lights out at night and then giving me a pronouncement in the a.m. of some kind. So, one morning, when Jeff was 7 years old, and Brian wad 5 and a half, they told me that they had decided to go ahead and start praying for whoever they were going to marry someday. Really, how do kids come up with some of the things they do? They'd surmised that whoever these future wives might be, that at that time they were little kids just like them and could really use the prayers! After that, when we had a little prayer in the morning, they would always toss a few words up for the "ladies", as I came to think of them. So sweet. Those "moments" out of time--and time marched right on.

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  4. My apologies! I had too many characters, like Pam did yesterday. OOPS!

    ...Now they are men. If you were to tell me today that Jeff is literally the most aggravating man on earth, I would be obliged to argue that you are understating the matter to spare my feelings as his mother! He is intense (though sincere) well beyond the point of being, shall we say, bizarre? But I will also tell you for a fact that his little wife experiences him in her most inward self as THE ONE who stood in God's face on her behalf every day from the time she herself was a tot of four years old, whether she can articulate this or not. His 3 daughters think he is God. He got all that he prayed for.

    Brian is another story altogether. He has seemingly constructed his heart into a "Home for Wayward Girls" and spread the wealth of his childhood prayers most liberally. He attracts the "damaged" ladies. Those broken and vulnerable victims of poor upbringing and their own bad choices. Those girls who are a little like his Mom once was, I think. They always go away. But I will tell you that they always go forward stronger, making better choices for themselves than they had before. I've had the privilege of knowing some of these girls and, to my knowledge, not one has reverted back to what she was before Brian came along. They've gone on to marry and raise children and Brian has remained alone. Someday one will stay. Won't that be something? If GOD'S GIFT TO WOMEN is ever authoritatively identified, he will be my Brian. His prayers have also been effectively answered.

    So much from just one "moment" of Conversation long, long ago. What if we had, instead, gotten "cracking" each morning, gotten immediately down to our "business" and torn into our "work". No sweet chocolate for us, that is what. Everything hangs upon a MOMENT. Nothing whatsoever depends upon a minute.

    Diana, I hope that you and Michael will have a golden day today, for you have given one to me. What do you suppose are some of the "products" of the Conversation that the two of you have devoted your moments to? With Love Always, Julie

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    1. Well, if you have a gift for gab, it just takes a bit of space, right??? :)

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    2. Julie, what a great post and what great memories you hold in your heart as touchstones. Thank you for sharing such a sweet memory out of timeless time.

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  5. This reminds me of a book, "Ceremonial Time" by John Hanson Mitchell I read some years ago. He explores the square mile he lives on so deeply that it's almost as if he can feel time. From his website: "What sets the book apart is the fact that he also used concept he learned from the Native Americans living in the area- -the idea of ceremonial time, in which past, present and future can be realized in a singular moment."

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    1. I'll have to check that book out, Al. I held a similar notion as a teenager and right up until now. That the past. present and future are all happening at the same time but on different planes or something. Sometimes there is a "bleed-through'. I just know that something else is going on other than the event before me. Maybe when the electricity goes out at last, I will find that again. The idea of a book about it is so appealing.

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    2. I've also had moments in my life which seem to be connected to different moments from different eras of my life. I tend to view it a bit like a huge motorway junction where the timeline sort of loops over itself and sends vibrations to the earlier or later points in time. Yes bleed-through is a good way of putting it.

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  6. Sorry, off topic as I so often am. Aside from saying that's a great post, Diana, and thank you, and I'm so proud to be in the world at the same time as you, I have a question.
    I am finding it increasingly hard to - how shall I put this - perhaps, keep up appearances. It feels like sliding down a hill trying to clutch onto the scree and there's no grip for my fingers.
    In normal life there's a certain amount of confrontation, a certain amount of social chat, of fulfilling obligations, of helping people who can't help themselves or should have done and didn't - and that's all okay and part of the graciousness and loving we are called to do. Except that my soul keeps yammering and yammering at the top of its voice that I just want to be left in peace. Even when kind friends stop to talk in the street I'm OK for about ten minutes then I feel like my head's going to explode - but I do keep trying and putting a suitable parade of expressions on my face. But I can feel the time coming when I'll just hurl myself into a hedge or something to avoid being seen.
    I have been following these blog posts with great interest, and am still thinking about the last one on "A Place To Be Free" - oh my goodness, yes please!! - but how to do that without inadvisably alienating people?
    Sorry to go on; just saying . . .

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    1. I wouldn't mind if we got to the bottom of this one, myself. We will, of course, alienate some people--but how not to alienate absolutely everyone...that IS a stumper!

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    2. Too bad I can't teach you my trick. To most, I am invisible. They cut me off in mid-sentence, interrupt me when I'm speaking with others and walk by without seeing me.

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    3. Now I am jealous of you, Al. Are you SURE you can't teach us that trick?

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    4. Yes, Mojoman! That happens to me too! People I have known for always walk right past me in the street without seeing me - even my husband doesn't recognise me! And that thing about interrupting and treating you like you weren't there happens to me all the time!
      That's not quite it - it's the social obligations I mean.

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    5. I feel like I am seen, but I do have people cutting me off as I am speaking. -- I am not sure what to make of that. I wonder if people are on different 'planes' or speeds in life and perhaps others cannot truly hear us or want to hear us.

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    6. Ember, are you suffering from sensory overload, stressed by your deadline, lack of sleep and other things maybe?

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    7. Let's not assume that the "problem" at hand is Ember's. She IS a patient woman--look at her face, not a ripple on that calm, gracious sea. She wants to know if there is a remedy to the rising tide of chit-chat and social "obligation" in the world. I'm sorry but there really is such a thing as a crashing boar. (I'll offer a word in their defense also shortly...) I daresay that ten minutes is an inordinate amount of time to be taking from a person who was formerly merely minding her own business. It's rude. Ember, and all of us in this group, I'll add, is the kind of lady who certainly ASKS "Do you have a moment?"or "Am I intruding?" All grace from the word go.

      It's unkind to invade another person's reverie; their silent temple. They are far, far away. It's like acting out in church or something. Has someone ever jokingly clapped you on the back while you were drinking a glass of water and then laughed as you sputtered and then said "What's YOUR problem?"?? Well, it's like that. Rude.

      In these situations I am really only begging the luxury of a "moment" to come down out of the Holy of Holies, through the Holy Place, past the Courts and out the Gate to you. I need to leave THE PRESENCE to come into yours, you see. Then, if you can wrap it up in ten minutes or less, I will be pleased to hear about your concerns about the weather and the government and anything else that is in no way any of my business and I will run my errand and you can go on about your business also. It's MANNERS.

      So what is the solution? What is a polite person to do? I don't know. This beast circles back around on itself in very tricky ways, for in defense of the crashing boar, he or she is probably feeling as obligated to speak to you as you do to them. Probably thinking it would be rude not to catch your attention and fill you in on the last twenty years of their life. They don't want to be called "stuck-up". They must make it a point to speak...So back to the Holy of Holies, I suppose...

      By the way, our Katrina is a great example of graceful manners today in asking Diana a question; "If I'm not intruding...", "Forgive me if I am." Lovely.

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    8. ...And the winner for crashing boar of the day is...Julie! Too long again.

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    9. Ember, I might be totally wrong here: my thought is - don't let them. I think it's ok to take a little step in faith towards 'letting the dead bury their dead'. Our responsibility as God's lovers is to follow our beloved: I think it's ok to say 'excuse me, I have an urgent appointment', hold up a hand, and go. Those who are meant to be connecting with you are the ones who understand that it is more important to be in the real than social convention. If it was a genuine life-or-death crisis I think you would be present for real, and this problem would not arise.

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    10. And dear Julie - please don't apologize. I love to hear what you have to say, and even if i didn't - it's a page on the internet! I can read over it. All the time I spend here is my choice - you are inconveniencing no-one - please don't confuse it with what Ember was talking about above.

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  7. Perhaps, Ember it is some type of body language that you are portraying. I know what you mean. It seems that 1) I have this type of face that just begs people to tell me their life histories, or 2) They know that you are not listening and keep talking just to irritate you. Seriously. I made my first shopping trip since my husband passed and I saw people that I knew and it seemed like I needed to console THEM before it was over. Awkward. I am getting more courage every day, so that I don't really mind alienating some people. That is a real power trip, lol!

    Diana, I think that this is one of the best posts that you have written and that is saying something! Timeless Time seems almost like a mantra. I need to use it daily. Thanks.

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  8. Ember i really relate to your comment.

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  9. I love this post and it has given me the clarity to see that I have been trying to shape my life so that I can live again in this timeless time. Thank you.

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    1. Me too, Elizabeth. I have only begun to make serious headway since coming here.

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  10. Ember is it possible to include the other person and their chatter into and part of the inner silence you may not want to have disturbed? In other words, can you hold onto the silence in your heart and still keep it open to include the noise and the distractions as PART of your inner silence?

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  11. Suddenly I found this place. Diana, reading your words is like drinking from a deep fresh well after dwelling through the desert for so many years. So, there are more souls like me, thank you for letting me know.

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  12. My best wishes to you, Bri, at your Little Paradise! I've enjoyed looking at your blog this morning.

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    1. Peace to you Julie and sorry that the blog is in Dutch! There is a lot of reading here, the posts from Diana but also the comments. A lot to think about, a lot to contemplate about. With my little comment I wanted you to know that I am here and I am reading all of this. It is great to see how you connect with each other.

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    2. Bri, Google translates your page very well. I enjoyed every word.

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  13. Bless my soul. The internet went down and took the post I've worked on this morning with it.

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  14. Diana, I am adopting this post as a new chapter in my Bible and tucking it right in as my Proverbs Chapter 32. Thank you for your care in writing it.

    I see that more and more, my days are going along as yours do. Patterns only. A child's version of time. It is not so much a matter now of of being TIME to do a thing. It is more "I think I will.." I think I will fix a bite to eat. I think I will take some sun. So nice.

    When I first came to Innermost House, I thought I was at least ten thousand miles away from the Innermost life that I longed for. In this short time, I've come to see that I am actually "all set". Most everything is already in place. It is almost time to fly away.

    I say "almost" because there is one last thing, and it is, of course the first thing. The key. The only key to the door. I did not find it strange for you to begin by speaking of electricity and the doing away with it. For me, it is the first order of business. It is fundamental. ESSENTIAL. It's the only way for me to get my camel through the eye of the needle.

    I have a sadness to go through before I insert the key, however. There is no hurry. I can now gladly wait for the sound of the tumblers giving way in the lock and the creaking of the ancient door swinging wide into my Innermost World. I can endure, as my Savior did--for the JOY that was set before Him. First things don't always have to be first.

    Thank you, Diana, for offering me the use of YOUR key while I rifled through my pockets for my own. Oh! HERE it is!

    And thank you, friends, for being patient with me while I have "hogged" the mirror to see what manner of person I am. Blessings today.

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    1. Julie, what a pleasure it is to see you hatching out. I am excited! I am hoping we get to see more as you go.

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  15. I have sometimes wondered if the institution of the Sabbath is a kind of remembering, or a trying to remember, that time before the world began. It is a holy day, a holiday from the condition of outward events in time.

    These words are so beautiful. This whole post is so beautiful.
    I'm wondering, Diana, how much of this quiet meditative living you are able to continue in your days at present. Apart from the long walks you have with Michael, if it isn't intruding may I ask if there is a new expression to the Conversation that you are now discovering? Forgive me if it is too early to say.

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