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Chatterbox: Listening to the quiet


There’s a lot to be said for “the quiet.” It’s special, yet so common, that we rarely notice its intense power over us. It accompanies a great many – and many great – things. Still, as just part of our daily spin, its soothing properties for anyone with a busy life often go unnoticed, underappreciated, and underutilized.

The stillness has therapeutic and restorative qualities that are imperative to our mental, physical, psychological and even our social health. Yet, quiet is rarely consciously recognized for this intense beneficial impact. In its “nothingness,” it’s one of life’s greatest rejuvenation resources, not to mention a huge pleasure if one can get it … and one can. Quiet time is everywhere, if we’re aware.

With quiet, most of us will nearly immediately pair meditation, prayer or both, as they are nearly the same thing, to many people. Quiet is therapy we can enjoy sitting on the porch, in the dark by a window, or at a lake waiting for the mating call of a loon. It’s a sort of magic, and it not only should never be wasted, overlooked, or given up to technology, but it should be sought out and made a routine part of a healthy day. Yet, at the pace at which we live, especially in America today, quiet isn’t always easy to get.

This morning, I received an email from a lovely woman and beloved friend in California. Married with an adult son, she emailed me a beautiful photo and – stop the presses – inspired this column by remarking that her life is peacefully quiet, but she wasn’t completely sure how.

Quiet certainly doesn’t seem to be something my life was ever programmed for. Yet, it’s something we all need, for some notable amount of time, every day. My mother had a sister who would sit, alone, every night, in the dark. She wasn’t sleeping. She was connecting with the stillness, melding into its restorative ambience and centering herself.

This past weekend, there was a party at my house. We celebrated the birthday of our youngest member who is just turning 3. His enthusiasm for all things colorful, special, and of even the simplest interest, is incredible… and contagious to be sure. The house was filled with fun, eye candy, food, warmth, and laughter, as well as cousins, adult family members and friends, all happy to be together and exchanging news. It was a celebration to be sure. Quiet, it was not, but the quiet did come eventually, as it, thankfully, usually does, and was expressly noticed and welcome.

We must, however, remember that, in some places, it is a greater gift than others. We’re among the lucky if we can depend on its consistency or rely on the calm after the storm, ever. In nations at war, the restorative sanctuary of quiet or a night’s rest isn’t a given.

Even in peaceful nations, life and burdens vary via social class by social class, neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street. Just by the luck of the draw, a day can be fun or fraught with peril, routine and simple or a fight for refuge and survival. For many, even a sleeping city doesn’t bring the quiet or sanctuary it should. If we’re blessed with that security, we should remember to expressly use it to repair and rejuvenate, to relish and respect it and the peace and quiet it gifts to us.

Last week, we talked about my “terrible, wonderful day.” For most of us, that checkered pattern is pretty much what we wear every day. The worker bees pretty much live a life in which every day is chaotic, even exhausting. There’s always so much we’re bothered with or badgered by. Oddly enough, those are usually the same things we are blessed with and never note, but we’re still hustling for it.

Whenever and wherever, some hours bring that replenishing silence, which is so highly underrated. Those of us who can reasonably expect it at any point in a day, or night, should take note, take time, and sit in the quiet. Listen to the silence. Rejuvenate, and be glad of it.

Chatterbyte: Last week, the Herald celebrated the beginning of its 22nd year. I am pleased to be part of the original staff and honored to be anywhere among this amazing group of dedicated, experienced journalists. Happy Anniversary to this incredible paper, dedicated to preserving the American value of freedom of the press.