Wow, we live in a noisy world! Even where I live, in the relative peace and quiet of a rural village, there’s enough noise to fill the silence. During the warmer months, there are lawnmowers, weed whackers, and lawn tractors buzzing away as everyone tries to keep up with the growing grass. The sounds of hammers hammering and circular saws cutting, coyotes yipping, and cattle lowing are other summer sounds.
Listen to me read this post:
Then the snow falls and the sounds change a little. They get nearer. Where I live, there are always train whistles blowing accompanied by the steady thrum of wheels on rails. During the winter, suddenly it seems as if that train is now running up and down the sidewalk in front of my house. The train’s horn blast carries more easily through the crisp, clear winter air. The sound of trucks out on the highway becomes closer, as well, and I can almost feel those freighters moving across the foot of my bed in the dawn shadows.
Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have noticed these sounds. Twenty years ago, I craved a little background sound, some white noise, something to assuage the threat of silence. I used to fall asleep with the radio on. Now I would shoot a radio at close range for playing while I’m trying to sleep. Now that I’m older, instead of warding off quiet, I find myself craving it and seeking it out.
There’s just something so sweet about silence. It’s as if when I’m quiet, when the world’s quiet, I can see everything a little clearer. I can see the solutions to problems or, even better, I can see that there weren’t any problems after all. In the silence, my mind slows and my racing thoughts take a break from their running. The silence refreshes me like nothing else.
Unfortunately, my thoughts don’t always crave the quiet I yearn for. Sometimes when I find a corner of silence and settle down into it, those thoughts start talking louder and faster. It’s a habit, I know, from all those years spent in trying to fill up silence with sound, with activity and with thoughts.
I need to sit in the stillness and reassure my thoughts, “Thank you for trying to help me rid myself of quiet. I appreciated your support in years past. Only now, I’ve changed. I actually want the quiet. You can help me out now, just in a different way. You be quiet, too.”
So let the mowers mow and the coyotes yip and the train whistles blow. I love where I live and I enjoy the sounds that make the place what it is. But give me times of silence as well, spaces in which I don’t have to think or decide or judge. Give me times of quiet rest to focus and to consider what really matters and what is just bogging me down. Then, when I return to sound, to the busyness, I will be refreshed and ready to take in all of this rich, noisy life.