Tim Chandler

On the presencing of stillness in peaceful space; or, how to make friends with dryads.

Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History nearly two thousand years ago: “We do not worship statues shining with gold and ebony so much as sacred groves and the very stillnesses they contain” (“nec magis auro fulgentia atque ebore simulacra quam lucos et in iis silentia ipsa adoramus” [12.2, my translation]). Pliny’s groves are undoubtedly peaceful spaces; we can indulge our imagination nostalgically with classical temples, ancient oaks and dryads, and not be too far from what he probably had in mind. In the groves of our own time, however, I’m sure many of us have experienced the stillnesses of which he speaks. In peaceful space we collaborate with other beings in the presencing of stillness. Pliny’s Latin is silentia, which I’ve translated as “stillnesses” because the Latin word carries much more than its English cognate, “silence”. Silentium means tranquillity, being still and quiet, free from disturbance. We know, too, that there is no silence in stillness, no lack. When we are still – in the presence of stillness – that is when we hear the most: the rustle of leaves (whether it’s the wind or a scratching bush-turkey), the sound of water or chiming bell-birds, your own breath as you catch it. You’ve probably guessed that I have a specific place in mind. Peaceful space happens when we allow for the numinous and the ineffable, for the more-than-human and for the very stillnesses in our midst.

Bio: Tim Chandler is an honours student in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland, where he is researching the representation of charismatic trees in Australian poetry. He enjoys listening to peaceful spaces.

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