One of the most striking things about living in Charles Causley’s house is the quality of silence that inhabits it.
It is not just the absence of noise that is remarkable, but the density of the quietness, the materiality of it. I can only put this down to the fact that for more than thirty years a poet lived in this house and for much of that time he was quiet – and by this I don’t just meant that he didn’t have the television or the radio on, I mean something else, something I can’t quite articulate at this point.
I think of the quietness in this house as being burnished. Like copper. Interestingly, this quietness does not preclude the presence of sound. Sometimes a car passes by. Sometimes the squirrels and foxes are so loud you think they’re in the house with you (this house has single-glazed windows – a very thin membrane between inside and out). Other times the church bells of St Mary Magdalene are blazing away, often for hours at a time.
The quietness here is not just about what can and cannot be heard. Perhaps what I am trying to talk about is a potential for solitude, the opportunity to sink into a space where there are very few distractions and where permission for this is wholly granted. Solitude is becoming more and more difficult to find – and even when we do find it, there is always the temptation to tweet or send a Facebook message about what it’s like. What of this other solitude though – the one where we can practice listening again, where we can haul ourselves up and out of the permanently available noise and step into something different?
Inside Causley’s HouseIt is significant to note that when you enter Cyprus Well, Causley’s house, you take two steps down. There is a stepping down from the front door into the front room, and this stepping down is both actual and symbolic. From the first moment I stepped down into this house, I felt something give way. Imagine being able to go one or two steps deeper into the earth. That’s what entering this house is like. It is about leaving one world behind and stepping down into another. As if my centre of gravity gently lowers and brings me closer to the ground; the ground of my being; the earthen place from which all things rise.
It is easy to forget the importance of solitude. There is never enough time to read all of the interesting articles and advices about how to write and how to improve our writing. Never enough time to do all of the things we have to do and then find time for the things we have to do but still haven’t done. In among this carnival of activity though, there is a need to still the swirl sometimes and settle into a quiet and lonesome place. As Rilke, that master of solitude, reminds us:
only be attentive to that which rises up in you and set it above everything that you observe about you. What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love; you must somehow keep working at it and not lose too much time and too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people.