There aren’t many opportunities for silence these days. Even a walk or jog requires a soundtrack streamed from my iPod to my earbuds, and if I choose to listen to the real soundtrack of my life, it’s usually a cacophony of car noises, the steady hum of a nearby freeway, or the rev of an engine, the honk of a horn, the chirping of birds and barking of a dog defending its territory. I find myself craving silence, though not carving out space or place for it.
Thinking back on memorable moments of silence, I’m transported to Christmas Eve. Beyond begging to open just *one* gift before our traditional tearing of wrapping paper on the 25th, I remember counting the hours to the one quiet part of our Christmas custom: a candlelight Christmas Eve service. We gathered just before midnight, so that as we lit the candle of the person standing beside us and sang an old hymn about a silent night or a holy night and created a sea of blinkey lights in the dark room, we could emerge from the church into that dark first hour of Christmas day. We’d wish each other Merry Christmas, my friends and I exchanging cheap gifts of mall-store jewelry, and head home to not-sleep so that as soon as the sun rose, I could rush out to see what trinkets were left in my stocking.
Though I no longer wake at dawn, and a cup of steaming hot coffee and pancakes heaped with butter and syrup are more my speed on Christmas morning, I still love the times I make it to a Christmas Eve service at a church, relishing in the quiet moment that the song ends and the only sound is of a collective held breath at the magic of hundreds of candles creating a gorgeous glow on the faces of the crowd.
How can we create more moments of silence? In “A Book of Silence,” Sara Maitland writes that “In our noise-obsessed culture it is very easy to forget just how many of the major physical forces on which we depend are silent — gravity, electricity, light, tides, the unseen and unheard spinning of the whole cosmos. … Organic growth is silent too. Cells divide, sap flows, bacteria multiply, energy runs thrilling through the earth, but without a murmur. … Gardening puts me in contact with all this silent energy; gardeners become active partners in all that silent growth. … The earth works its way under my nails and into my fingerprints, and a gardener has to pay attention to the immediate now of things.”
If December isn’t the best month for you to spend hours in your garden (hello lovely rain storm in L.A.!), you can spend some time with the silence of growing things indoors. One of my favorite holiday plants is what is commonly called the Amaryllis, but I learned is actually a Hippeastrum, a genus in the family Amaryllidaceae. (The generic use of “amaryllis” applies to a South African plant, generally grown outdoors.)
According to WhiteFlowerFarm.com, amaryllis that you purchase already potted need only a thorough watering with lukewarm water to begin growing.
- Place the pot where the temperature remains above 60°F. The warmer the temperature (70-80°F night and day is ideal), the faster the bulb will sprout and grow.
- Provide bottom heat (by setting the pot on a propagation mat or on the top of a refrigerator) to help stimulate growth.
- Water only when the top inch of the potting mix is dry.
If you want your bulb to bloom again in a year, it’s important to let it re-build after flowering.
- Cut the flower stalk 3 to 5 inches above the bulb, but do not cut off the leaves.
- Place your plant in a sunny window, and continue your watering habit when the top inch is dry.
- WhiteFlowerFarm recommends fertilizing with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month, and after the final frost, either moving the pot outdoors or planting the bulb in full sun.
(Photo Credit: TraditionalHome)