The quieter things get around here, the more I crave silence.
Vermont is a pretty quiet state, and from our yard I can barely hear the cars going by at the end of the long driveway. I often hear dogs barking in the distance, but no sound of human voices ever reaches my ears. In the house, it\’s just my husband and me these days, both of us pretty quiet people, and getting quieter by the minute. We differ in one respect, however: he keeps Vermont Public Radio on in whatever room he\’s in, and in the evenings he turns on the TV. Fortunately for our marriage, the house is well provided with doors.
I remember in high school doing homework with Buddy Holly or Ricky Nelson nasally giving voice on the radio. But that didn\’t last long. By the time I was in college, I had come to love silence. It helped that I lived at home instead of the dorm. Even as little children, my two daughters were tolerably quiet. They knew the difference between inside voices and outside voices while they were still in diapers. As teenagers, they had radios and other noise makers, but they had to keep the volume low enough so they couldn\’t be heard outside their bedrooms. Poor kids.
As the years go by, silence–the absence of sounds produced by humans–grows ever more golden for me. There are plenty of other noises around our place, especially in spring: the hens cackling, the chickadees insisting on their territories, the owls hooting, the frogs going on and on about something, sometimes at night the coyotes howling in the woods, sometimes weird animal screams that I can\’t identify–I don\’t mind them a bit. I also don\’t mind the sounds of my dogs–with maybe the exception of sudden explosive barking close to my ear. German Shepherds are quite vocal, and Wolfie especially has a repertory of moans, hums, and yodels that I find charming. He and Bisou lie side by side after breakfast and sing duets, and I\’m always sorry when they stop.
Otherwise, though, give me silence, lots of it. I\’m attracted by the contemplative monastic orders–nuns and monks who live out their lives in the absence of the spoken word, with only the sound of bells to interrupt the silence of the cloister. All things being relative, however, I wonder if in that kind of quiet the swish of another nun\’s sandals against the stones or the clacking of somebody\’s rosary beads become intolerable nuisances. Knowing myself, they very well might.