One of my favorite websites is Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. And an image that frequently pops up on the site is one of a small boy sitting aside a small stream, with the words, “Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.” The artist is Maurice Sendak and it appears in the book “Open House for Butterflies,” one of many he collaborated on with author Ruth Krauss. Every time I see it, my heart is glad because it’s dead solid good advice.
I’m lucky to have a little stream to be quiet near and listen. Though the stream is technically a creek: Wawayanda Creek, to be exact. And this is what it looks like:
It meanders through an outdoor sculpture park called Pacem In Terris in Warwick, NY. It features the work of Frederick Franck, who along with his wife, Claske, opened it up as a park/museum in 1965. He lived there until his death in 2006.
I’ve been volunteering at Pacem for about 12 years, spending about one Saturday a month during the spring/summer/fall doing what we call “watch,” though that makes it sound a lot more serious than it actually is. I open the place up, stay there all day to make sure that visitors behave themselves, and then close it down at the end of the day. Sometimes I sell books, prints, or postcards that are available for purchase. Sometimes I recommend nearby restaurants.
It’s not all about that, though. In the course of an average day there, I have time to meander, to write in my journal, and to take photos (not of the artwork so much as everyday things that are also there). And I have time to sit by the Wawayanda and listen.
It’s a distinct white noise, made more deliberate than a stream thanks to the small waterfall that intersects the creek about halfway along the property. The air around it is tinged with a metallic smell that I love to inhale. Sometimes, after a rough week, it’s like breathing after being under water a tad too long.
It’s very easy to take Ruth’s and Maurice’s advice seriously there.