on the importance of keeping quiet

May 31, 2016 0 comment

A friend shared this beautiful poem by Chilean writer Pablo Neruda: keeping quiet. It reminded me how much I love his writings but also, the importance of absorbing the moment, taking it all in without worrying about what is coming next. It is not an easy task in our hyper-connected world. Also, as a parent, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the inevitable busy agenda.

Thanks to this poem, I have taken some time to look back at all those places where I remember keeping quiet. Some of them remind me of a glimpse in time that stayed with me forever. Some are near home, some very far away. And for some,  I remember drifting away in my thoughts, as if time had completely stopped around me.

So here is the text, and a selection of images from our trips around the world, where and when I remember keeping quiet, and feeling immensely happy. 

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Pablo Neruda — from Extravagaria (1974)

Byron Bay Australia morning mist

the Hinterlands of Byron Bay, Australia, early morning – the view from our cottage after the children woke us up.

Byron Bay Australia

Outside our little cottage in Bangalow, near Byron Bay Australia

Uganda sunrise

Uganda, at dawn, on our way to meet the gorillas


Serengeti Tanzania stillness

keeping very quiet in the Serengeti, Tanzania


Paris lovers' bridge

Stillness as the boats passed underneath us, on the Pont des Amours in Paris

Burma river trip

Sunset cruise on the Irradawy river in Burma

san pedro 2

Bonfire in the Atacama desert, in Chile

Fiji lagoon

After a yoga class on the beach in Fiji, on Savusavu island

view over the Vesuvius from Sorrento Italy

Waking up in Sorrento with this view over the Vesuvio

Cape Town South Africa

On the road to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

Sleeping in the desert Oman

Marcelo asleep in his bedouin tent in the Omani desert

At the monastery in Bhutan Himalaya

At a monastery in Bhutan, somewhere in the Himalaya

Lunch ceremony in Bhutan

a silent lunch ceremony high up in the Himalayas, Bhutan

Listening to the birds in Ubatuba, Brazil

Listening to the birds in Ubatuba, Brazil

Ships on the Bosphorus Istanbul

watching the ships go by on the Bosphorus, Istanbul

Atacama desert Chile full moon

waiting for the full moon to rise over the Atacama desert, Chile

Mallorca at friends

Marcelo and Amalya deep asleep, sharing a bed in Mallorca, Spain

In the TGV fast train from Avignon to Patris, France

seating by the window in the TGV from Avignon to Paris, France

morning walk in Primrose Hill, London

morning walk in Primrose Hill, London

On the bullet train from Osaka to Naoshima, Japan

Lior in the bullet train from Osaka to Naoshima, Japan

Hiroshima memorial Japan

Marcelo at the Hiroshima memorial, Japan

Amalya at the Marlene Dumas exhibit, Tate Modern London

Amalya alone with Marlene Dumas at the Tate Modern, London

Ps: A few good reads

I found a bilingual edition English / Spanish of Extravagaria here. I think that Marcelo (he’s 10) will enjoy The Dreamer by Pam Ryan Munoz, re-telling the story of Pablo Neruda with some fictional elements and poetry. And Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People for Amalya who always enjoys drafting poems in her little notebook. Lior will have to wait a bit, keeping quiet hopefully.

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