Finding Joy in the Silence


I grew up in the fog on the coast of California, but nothing compares to the thick, cold fog that has engulfed us over the past few weeks in the Oregon valley where we live. It’s hard to tell whether it’s 7 am or 4 pm, each day rolling into night only to repeat itself the next day. To say it’s depressing is an understatement. It’s why so many of us (despite the cancer warnings) are often tempted to find refuge in a tanning bed. I won’t, but, as I write this, it sounds absolutely amazing.

Today, despite the frigid temperatures and thick, white fog, I decided to bundle up and get some much needed yard work done. I was beginning to feel suffocated inside, surrounded by the stale air and constant buzz of the forced air heater. The air was cold and crisp, and hung low covering the yard like a thick blanket. It reminded me of the English moors that I’ve so often read about in the Secret Garden or Wuthering Heights, eerily enchanting.

My outfit on the other hand, was anything but enchanting.


As I worked my arms back and forth, cutting down the grasses that had become brown and wilted, I felt a surge of energy pulse through my body. I could feel the blood flowing through my veins, heating my body up and giving me a burst of energy. As I breathed the cold, thick air in and out, I felt my lungs come alive, grateful for the fresh air.

Despite the silence and starkness of the yard, I heard birds chirping nearby, perhaps cheerfully optimistic of the upcoming Spring. As I pulled the remaining growth from the raised garden beds, I found great satisfaction in the flat, emptiness of the beds. Instead of seeing them as sad and empty, I saw the great potential for next season’s crops. I thought of the parallels between those garden beds and my life and an upcoming panel I’ve been asked to be part of where I will share my story of recovery. I saw those empty beds as my life when I made the decision to get sober – sparse and barren, yet so full of potential. I’ve been nervous and apprehensive about sharing my story in a panel-like format, but today I realized the power that a once empty, but now overflowing garden bed could have on one looking in from the outside. To see potential is to have hope.

As I walked through the yard, picking up debris from the recent windstorm, I thought of my mom who I often feel closest to while I’m gardening or doing yard work. I felt her presence all around me and pictured her in her robe and slippers working in her yard as I would so often find her growing up. I imagined her pointing out all the new growth on the camellias or the first glimpses of Spring in the daffodils pushing up through the hard, cold dirt. And, I realized no matter how much time passes, I still miss her just as much now as I did back then.

Yet, regardless of the sadness and longing I felt, I found a deep sense of peace and joy in the silence of the cold, thick fog – and hope in the new signs of life growing up all around me.


18 responses

  1. I have to say that I love your writing more and more, Chenoa. Such simplicity and subtlety, but brimming with such such life and insight and positivity. As I sit here reading this, I can feel myself called to the night air. Sometimes we need that physical action to keep us centered. I can only sit for so long, like you, before my body says “move”. And often something stirs alongside it. I love the analogy of the beds…moving.

    And I am very happy for you to be on that panel! I can’t wait to hear more about it. You will be fantastic. You have a lot to share and give…as you do here.


  2. Gardening in the fog! Something I doubt I’ll ever get a chance to do here in the desert. It’s such a gift when we can do something or be somewhere that reminds us of someone we miss. It’s bittersweet. Your writing is beautiful Chenoa.

  3. When I read I was reminded of the moment I first felt peace and bliss within the same breath. It was so unfamiliar. I rejected it. It was a foreigner. I have come to have many. I welcome them, almost border line crave them. Sometimes we are finding our way and we don’t even know it. This is beautiful writing.

  4. You write about loss and how you miss them – my post today is about someone who I knew for less than one year over 30 years ago but still is a major part of my life.

    Love the wellies – they look like they may have been sold off as surplus by the local nuclear plant… 😉 Still you’re not likely to lose them are you …

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