How often do you experience the absence of sound? I don’t mean white noise, which is fairly common in doctors’ offices, or from traffic, television, radio, or even the wind, but actual silence, where you don’t hear anything.
A few times a summer my family spends the night on a remote island in Maine. The most striking thing about it is its silence. My mother used to come here to recuperate when responsibilities overwhelmed her. She built a little house overlooking a cove and framed it around her imagined bedroom window. This is where I stay.
From the bed I look out over the ingress and egress of tides. At the dawning and dusk of day, unless there is a storm, it’s far enough from the water to be absent of sound.
I’m sitting here now as I write, having awakened with the sun. The tide is seeping into the cove, gliding over clam flats. Seagulls have gone from picking at shells and not even a loon is in evidence. I listen for its lament, wanting the presence of my brother’s spirit in its call. Silence invites imagination.
The paradox of silence is the noise one notices inside. I catch myself planning my day, wondering how my father is doing, thinking about a friend who was struggling yesterday, the tragic death of Robin Williams, worrying about the conflict in the Middle East. My thoughts are like the ripples from a stone thrown into water. I let them fade and bring myself back to center.
At the heart of silence is the potential for peace.
Most of us don’t have an island to escape to, and most of the year I am not here. So how to find silence in the buzz of daily life? Occasionally I lie still and let my breath be the tide. In this apparent emptiness, the line between thinking and being blurs. It is the difference between mining my mind for creative ideas, and letting ideas float to the surface.
This morning is a good example. I woke into silence. It called me from my sleep and drew me to the page.
What does silence stir in you?
Just last week my mother received a call about an insurance policy my father had taken out in the event of his death. The dollars were to be split between his four children. My mother was made beneficiary. My father died 22 years ago. We all are numb at the news after so long, but more importantly it has caused us to stop, get quiet and reflect on his life. Although I was 18 when he passed and planned all the details of his funeral – I read his death certificate for the first time three days ago.
In the absence of words and thoughts there has just been tears and raw emotions. I invite them because it is allowing me to release what I didn’t know I needed to release. Sometimes I’m so busy “doing” to fill in. Silence helps us “BE” and know that it is enough.
Thank you for your consciousness,
So good you let the tears flow Tonja. It’s strange how they come even years after. Perhaps you were so busy attending to all the details after his death that you didn’t have the silence of mind to grieve fully. I’m glad you are getting the time now. Peace be with you.
Each of us is different and how we handle pressing thoughts is as individual as each of us are. It took me years, if I were to be honest, to realize that – in that list of things that come into our minds, often unbidden – there are those that we can “tend to” right now — and those are the things that can clear the mind for now and make a huge difference.
As we grow older, I think we learn that – in the end – that is family and friends ( and, of course, love) that come before all other things. I call it “touching base” – but we all have our own phrases that say what we do. But “lifting others” who are older, not as well, or those whose good days are fewer than the used to be is my first priority. A call, well timed hopefully, is like gold to the person on the other end. Sometimes – more often than I first thought – something is dropped in conversation that lets me know I can take it one more step, doing something for someone today that might make all the difference. Most often, when we cannot make it better, just telling family or friends that we love them is what they need.
Somehow, it gives me pleasure to do this . . . a good beginning of the day. Once the loose thoughts, the loose ends have already lifted my heartstrings, I can lay back if I care to and let the silence take over. At my Lake House, I can hear the soft lap of the waves running on shore, the stirring of leaves above, the calling of birds, more — and it too is a different form of silence . . . but there is nothing more uplifting than untrammelled nature within reach — moreso now, in our real world that is so trouble-filled in every direction. In all the turmoil, the silence filled only with sounds of nature soothes the heart, already softened by touching base with those we love.
I like how you live your life from a place of service and heart, Joan. I’m sure you have made a difference to many. Thanks for sharing. — Eileen
Just the photo that you posted offers a deeply calming peace: thanks for sharing it. Each morning I rediscover solitude while quietly kayaking Lake Champlain or walking the nature park with my dog. How blessed to live surrounded by unparalleled beauty and tranquility: gifts to the soul. A friend from India, now living in Essex Junction, told me that his parents came to visit recently and were deafened by the silence of Vermont. We each grow accustomed to the environs that we inhabit. I’m forever grateful to call Vermont home.
I’m with you Sue. Vermont is such a peaceful State. And it’s good to know that people like you, who care so much tending to the natural environment, are living in it as gentle stewards.
I can relate to everything you expressed, Eileen, and love your thoughts about: “Occasionally I lie still and let my breath be the tide. In this apparent emptiness, the line between thinking and being blurs. It is the difference between mining my mind for creative ideas, and letting ideas float to the surface.” Amen. Do you ever think that good writing is often “channeled” or inspired by the Divine? Making space for creativity to blossom is often fertilized by silence.
Also, I can relate to Joanee and Sue’s posts. Silence is balm to my soul, and I need a fair amount of it daily. Being in nature always rejuvenates and restores me, and I feel it’s like pressing the “re-set” button. The sights and sounds of birds chirping, squirrels scampering, butterflies flitting about eases my worries and calms my woes. Brings me back to my heart where the wellspring of truth and beauty originates.
This summer I had to put my beloved pup, Sweetie Sue, down as well as my Tuxedo kitty, Snookie. Silence is my friend and companion these days, and I’m spending more time on the deck, in my own backyard, day-dreaming, writing, meditating, just Being. Silence is a gift we give ourselves.
I love the idea of your breath being the tide. I’ll try that. Silence is truly a gift we give ourselves.
Silence stirs the music of Jobim in me…
Thanks for the recommendation. I’m listening to him now as I write!
Two days after 9/11 (2001) 3 of us climbed Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in New York State, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Teddy Roosevelt assent where he learned later that day he had become President of the United States. It was two days after 9/11 when the world was just beginning to recover from that most horrible tragedy. What made 9-13-2001 different was that no planes were allowed to fly until 4 PM that day, September 13th. There was not a sound to be heard but our footsteps and occasional conversations. I imagine much as it had been for Teddy Roosevelt. It felt very connecting and spiritual lifting but tragic at the same time. I felt reflective on the tragedies of 9/11 and feeling Roosevelt rushing to Buffalo to become President.
Silence can be so connecting and powerful, i.e., Nature’s power bar.
Thanks for the reminder of that fateful day, John. I remember the same thing from my place in Vermont, as if the world was stunned into silence. At least the world as we knew it in the US…