This morning I ripped the month’s page away from the year. March, defined by thirty-one small white boxes, was filled with ink, a few arrows, and many cross outs. The month was a busy one for me as scheduling dominated my weeks. From an electrician called to my home to replace a switch, but needed to reschedule for a day to rewire the kitchen, to rescheduling a painter because the new wood floor wasn’t dry, to events celebrating my mom’s ninety-first birthday, I always looked ahead to the next day, or even to the next week to continue adding to the chain of scheduled days.
I thought how much we depend on the future to schedule our lives in advance. “Let me check my schedule,” is our response when asked for our time. You can’t leave the dentist’s office after your six-month cleaning without scheduling the next visit, six months later. From haircuts next month, to dry cleaning pickups next Saturday, our lives fill squares on a monthly calendar. Our future offers us openings of which we quickly fill.
And now it’s April. Boxes of days on the calendar appear larger. Sheltering in place and closures everywhere have given us no reason to fill our days; there are no places to go and no people to see. We are no longer scheduled. Our future seems to be today.
But I see this month of white paper as open space. In the absence of inky scrawls, there is stillness and light.
Hermann Hess, a German poet and novelist says, “Within yourself is a stillness, a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”
Without schedules pulling us into many directions, we can take comfort in retreating. And what a time it is when we are forced to be with ourselves, to be with white spaces.
For all my writer-friends who faithfully continue to put words to stories during this time, I offer inspiration from Pico Iyer’s book, The Art of Stillness.
“And it’s only by going nowhere- by sitting still or letting my mind relax- that I find that the thoughts that come to me unbidden are far fresher and more imaginative than the ones I consciously seek out.”
While we all manage as best we can during the next few weeks, let your calendar of open white space be your sanctuary, to be yourself, to be still.