There used to only be two trees when I looked outside, one on a side of the hallway and another nearing a ditch on the other side of the hallway leading up to my apartment. Pavement and fences and the sounds of the city were the only other things in view. I never thought anything of it until all the sensory overload overcame me one day while waiting for the bus.
Cities are supposed to be busy, people like them because something is always going on. I used to think that if something was always going on I could keep consistently busy. Which to be entirely fair did prove true, there was always something I could be doing or pretend to be doing. Just as long as there was movement I could avoid stopping.
I always have felt that stillness has nothing but negative connotations to it for younger people like me. Stillness is you not being productive, stillness is you not hustling, if you are not moving you are stagnating. Being poor in a city has always painted stagnation as an enemy, sure you might not be moving up, but as long as you move you avoid being in the same place right?
I always loved the idea of stillness but never really found the right way to practice it, if I just sat outside and closed my eyes all I found myself presented with was snippets of a million other worlds. None of which would ever intersect with mine in a meaningful way. When I was 15 I used to read zen habits daily and try an apply a fake minimalist philosophy to my life. It was appreciating the idea of stillness without actually being still, it was corporate.
I eventually became sick of those two trees. One was severely damaged from a hurricane months before and looked to be sick of itself. The other had failed to prepare itself for the winter and tried to be green when every other tree seemed to have moved on.
I think my growing discomfort for the city and those two trees had became intertwined, I was on my last legs of be able to function in those walls and these trees has given up all hope of being greenery when the humans around them so very much did not care.
By the time I had made my final decision and hatched together a plan to escape those walls, the tree who couldn’t find it within themselves to lose their leaves now became fully prepared for the winter. The other tree became a stump. This was the first time I ever noticed the similarities between us, I was preparing for a winter, almost reduced to nothing but a stump.
I left to a place where all you have is stillness, an hour train ride or a forty minute drive to find yourself inside walls. And naturally I kept trying to make noise where none existed. Trying to fight that stillness, trying to fight of the perpetual threat of stagnation that never proves itself true.
While stillness is not peace, the conditions for peace can come from stillness. I keep finding myself with not much to do after I finish my tasks and it’s hard to fight off that urge to keep doing more. I’m not reading this article to learn something, I’m simply reading it to pass the time. I don’t know if doing things just to keep my mind active after I finished is good for me.
There is this slowness to rural life that starts to creep into your own life, just like how saying y’all becomes second nature once you spend more than three months in the south. I’m trying to embrace it. I can’t predict if I’ll find peace in the stillness, but there’s certainly a calm.
I still haven’t found my solace nor have I found real peace. But the difference between now and the last time is that I see a forest in front of me outside.