>Votive Silence

>There are frequent references in my journal to the “votive silence.”

That phrase, along with “sacred hush,” became engrained in my mind about a year ago when I began genuinely journaling as an assignment for a writing course. I had always journaled sporadically, but found myself wasting pages on getting an imaginary reader up to date on the events of my life since my previous entry. Journaling as a regular assignment initiated in me the habit of writing for a discerning audience (a writing instructor) and writing reasoned observations rather than merely recording events and my emotional responses to them.

I spent some time the other morning trying to nail down the origin of the phrase “votive silence.” A google search showed that other writers have used it to describe such varities as palm trees and chafing dishes.

But I finally determined that I drew it from the course study guide, which quoted author Derek Walcott in a Writers at Work interview:

I imagine all artists and all writers in that moment before they begin their working day or working night have that area between beginning and preparation, and however brief it is, there is something about it votive and humble and in a sense ritualistic (Plimpton, 8th ser. 272-278).

Walcott adds that “any serious attempt to try to do something worthwhile” involves ritual.

I’m not quite sure how I extrapolated “votive silence” and “sacred hush” into my thinking as direct quotes from that course, but they are firmly planted.

“Votive silence” especially appears so often because that is what I try to capture when I sit at my computer at 5:00 in the morning. And what I frequently lament failing to do in the frustration of pressing deadlines and distractions.

On Sunday morning, I was lying in bed trying not to move so my husband could get a little extra sleep. As I was quietly lying there and praying, it suddenly occurred to me that the moment itself was the votive silence and the sacred hush.

The votive silence is not something that I have to try to capture on my computer screen before I can begin my work day. It’s God gift to me every morning before I even get out of bed. I don’t have to capture it at all; I just need to be aware of God’s presence and open my self-centered mind to his direction.

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