Stillness, Nothing-Happening Moments

New York, Points South

In March at a beach in North Carolina, a group of people I have known for a long time gathered and cooked and talked and walked and ate and talked some more. One day the fog did not lift for hours. As much as all of the group photos we made of that time, I like the ones that tried to capture the fog, the experience of walking that morning into a sort of nothingness from which people walking the other way appeared suddenly and just as quickly disappeared behind us. We were walking side by side in pairs, probably six or eight of us, chatting, and the waves were hitting the shore; but the photographs convey silence and solitude.


Akhil Sharma:

I began to wonder what it would be like to remove sound, feel, and smell, and to leave just visuals and dialogue and introspection. on writing Family Life


Charles Baxter, in his interview with the Rumpus about his essay “Stillness” from Burning Down the House:


Rumpus: “If, however, we have truly lost the ability to be interested in stillness … we will have lost the capacity to be accurate about an entire dimension of our experiences.” Can you comment on this statement in your essay?

Baxter: There can be great narrative interest in a man or a woman sitting quietly, if only you surround that person with an interesting narrative context. There can be great narrative interest in slow art, in the nothing-happening moment. These may be the very moments, in fact, that lead to real enlightenment. No one was ever enlightened by a car crash. But stillness requires a kind of patience, a putting-aside of restlessness. That requires discipline, and not everyone has the strength or patience to get there. So be it.



Until he had come the house had forgotten the pomegranate. And until now they had forgotten it again.

The Pomegranate” from Palm-of-the-Hand Stories


Being together in those moments and a moment, if only a second, now and then, to recall them….




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