The sounds of silence

Quiet is not a bad thing.

My friends just scanned that sentence twice, maybe three times. They are laughing and thinking: an interesting statement from a person who talks too much. 

It’s true. I enjoy the art of conversation. Keep in mind art can be comic or tragic.

I was the child who would never have won the Quiet Game—a game meant to calm elementary school students, reign them in.

If anyone speaks after a count to three, the teacher gets a point. If the teacher earns no points after a few minutes, the class wins. 

What the kids don’t know is that their victory is also a win for the teacher. The prize? A quiet room.

One, two, three, and a word would have bubbled up and out of my pursed lips. Class loses; teacher loses—all because of me.

I was also the child who ducked under church pews to squelch giggling spells. FYI: Giggling at church means trouble at home. 

I’m the adult who strikes up a conversation with strangers. I’m the adult who never feels lost in a crowd.

I’m also an adult who has learned to appreciate quiet.

It took a long time for me to figure out that a little quiet can keep me out of a lot of trouble. When I remember to keep silent, I experience fewer “insert foot-in-mouth” regrets.

Quiet makes me a better listener—if I’m not thinking up my response when someone else is talking.

Whenever I’m home alone, I never think of turning on the television or the radio. The rare exception happens when I clean (because I rarely clean). 

That’s when I sing and dance to my playlist. Music makes the job go faster. It makes work feel like play. 

Anyone catching me sliding across my hardwood floors, mop handle-microphone in hand, might think I’m ready for a vacation at the funny farm.

Maybe so, but I digress.

Quiet is an escape, a sanctuary. Yet, without noise—no rattling, beeping, shouting, or blaring—we would fail to recognize that silence is a gift.

When I drive long distances, the car is not always quiet. I catch the latest in news and sports, listen to a book, and/or put on some music. 

Eventually, though, I grow tired of the constant babel and turn it all off in favor of listening only to my thoughts and the whir of traffic around me.

Gary knows. More than once, he’s heard me say, “Is it OK with you if we just listen to nothing for a while?”

Problem is, I ask as I punch the Off button to silence whatever we were hearing.

“I guess so,” says my husband, “since you already turned it off.”

Quiet is defined by the ears of the listener.

There are those who cannot bear complete silence, who think it deafening. They drown out the quiet with television by day and sound machines by night.

I am not one of them.

For me, quiet is hearing nothing but birds whistling in a new day. It’s the still of a lake in July after the last fisherman drives away and the lone swimmer towels herself dry.

Quiet is a silent stroll on a snowy evening, flakes noiselessly cascading down, down and around, around, leaving snippets of vanishing lace on my nose and cheeks and eyelids.

Silence is the sun throwing sparkling stars across the water as it sinks in blues and pinks beneath the ocean.

Quiet is reading a book by a crackling fire. It’s an unexpected summer shower, raindrops tap-dancing over a shingled roof. 

It’s a harvest moon, bold and luminous, among the stars. It’s a rocking chair filled with a grandfather humming to the granddaughter in the crook of his arm.

For me, quiet is peace without words.


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