Every Place on Earth is Thin

Rob WiltshireBack in the days when I was actively producing novels and teaching at writing conferences across the country, I tried to impress upon would-be writers the importance of white space on the page. Shorter paragraphs. Reduction of excessive verbiage. Less irrelevant adverbization.

“We live in a world of the twelve-second attention span,” I’d say. “Give your readers a place to rest their eyes.”

Now, with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, emoticons and Instagram, the national attention span has shrunk to eight seconds, and white space has become more important than ever.

But not just white space for the eyes. White space for the soul. A place, now and then, free of noise and rush and pressure, free of the frantic angst and worry and fear that is so much a part of 21st century life.

Since my wife Pam and I moved to Ecuador in September of last year, our lifestyle has changed dramatically. Much of our time each day is taken up with the simple business of living—going to the Mercado, buying fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking everything from scratch, washing dishes by hand, hanging laundry on the clothesline. We spend most evenings sitting on the terraza talking and sipping wine and watching the sun go down. We don’t own a TV. We catch a few shows on the computer, but we do it on our own schedule. Most of our leisure time is spent reading and listening to music—mostly classical, almost always peaceful.

If it sounds like we’ve dropped through a time warp back to the 1950s, sometimes it feels that way, too. With the exception of high speed Internet, life in Ecuador offers us a slower pace reminiscent of Mayberry, where people talk to their neighbors, come home for lunch, stroll along the river bank, and sit in the park to watch the dogs play.

But we don’t have to move abroad to make such a change. A simple shift in awareness will do as well.

Light in tree

Every place on earth is thin,
if only we have eyes to see the light
that pierces through,
or ears to hear the whispers
from another room.

Every place on earth is thin,
every step a threshold,
every stream a holy path,
every arching tree a portal,
every beast a totem
and a spirit guide.

All around us
breezes from the breath of God
ripple the curtains that divide;
each leaf and weed and bush
holds holy flame,
and every bird
sings glory.

©Penelope J. Stokes

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5 Responses to Every Place on Earth is Thin

  1. Maren says:

    Yes, indeed, I am thinking now about this pace. I am in Silicon Valley, visiting our grandson. Now Silicon Valley is not what I would call a 50’s culture and yet their are many people here — people who have been here since it was a rural culture and some new — some Latino and some Asian — who are sitting in their gardens drinking coffee — willing to chat with a grandma with a stroller. San Ramon Avenue as a thin place.

    May I reprint your poem pn my blog — I love it very much?

  2. What a lovely poem and awareness. I will continue to look for thin places as that seems to be where I am most at home.

  3. Romalice Brown says:

    Sounds good, Penelope.  Sounds like you don’t write much?  Love you, Romeo

  4. Maren says:

    Reblogged this on Gifts in Open Hands and commented:
    Reflection for all of us from Penelope Stokes in Ecuador.

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