Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Silence

About five or six years ago, I spent a couple of nights in a hotel in downtown Manhattan, New York. I didn’t get a wink of sleep. The noise completely floored me. Even at 3am, there were fire engine sirens, car horns beeping, people on the street yelling, garbage trucks banging about. It's true: New York is the city which never sleeps! Well, I certainly didn't.

When I arrived home, I stood at my window at 10pm breathing in the fresh country air. ‘Listen to that,’ I said to my husband. ‘The sweet sound of silence.’ I wanted to bottle it so I could have it forever.

I awoke last night at 3am to go the loo. How inconvenient to wake from slumber! As I crawled back into bed, I took about five minutes to just savour that familiar sound: silence. I love to wake up before dawn and be joined by the birds, and the sound of Nature in her various expressions is a delight to me. At night, I thrive on silence. It was nice to be reminded that I don’t go to sleep against a backdrop of street lights, sirens and car horns.

Long Meg stone circle, just a few fields from our home
When I write, I also like silence (birdsong is just fine, as is the cracking fire). But if the girl cat is in the room snuffling or snoring, she has to go out. It’s just too distracting. As soon as my family wake up, I head off to do other things.

I can write notes in cafés, in the car outside my daughter’s music lesson, and other such places. But writing from the depths, writing from my heart? I need silence. I often wonder how I managed to write when working in a news room all those years ago. If I’m honest, I think I was always side-tracked by those conversations. 

Throughout my late teens and twenties, I always came out as an extrovert on the personality tests. But certain events in my adult life, including chronic back pain for years and years and years (so much better now), had the effect of weighing me down, and taking their toll. My essential personality is still optimistic ~ and I truly hope that I always have the ability to see the cup full to overflowing ~ but something huge has shifted, and this is truly reflected in my inability to write in noisy, distracting situations.

I watch in awe as my daughter Eliza scribbles her novels into notebooks, day after day, never bothered by family conversations, movies, coffee machines in cafés or crowds. I envy (in a nice way!) that ability to just focus on the job at hand. 

Silence is my comforter, and Silence is in my heart. Perhaps it’s because, for me, Silence is another word for Peace.

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