Perched on the front deck of a house that sits at least a quarter mile from a barely-traveled two-lane rural road that was mostly gravel until seventeen years ago, there’s just enough early dawn silence to soothe my chatter-weary ears. The blue jays are at it again this morning, arguing over whose turn it is at the feeder while the goldfinches cut in line with their swooping arcs.
Yesterday was unusually loud and filled with all manner of sounds, from the rumble of distant trucks hauling who knows what on a Saturday morning, to the crinkling of the reusable blue IKEA tote bags we packed with wax-lined food-grade resealable bags of granola to sell at our local farmer’s market, to the happy and friendly banter with our customers. As we made our way to town, the Tundra’s motory vibrations set a plastic water bottle rattling ever so slightly until I moved it to the quieter floor mat behind the passenger seat while Patrick drummed his fingers on the console between us.
I’ve been a morning person pretty much all my years, even in college, where mornings were often just the remnants of the previous long night before with friends and roommates out in the unclaimed field behind the soccer pitch, trying to remember the chord progression to the bridge of “A Horse With No Name”. What has pulled me out of bed since, for the past 12,000+ mornings is less a sense of purpose—though that’s certainly still there in the mix—and more a craving for the near-silence that only a fresh sunrise, with or without dew and blue jays, offers up in its golden-fingered hands. It’s having the living room all to myself, a kitten in my lap, and the hot pot about to give me that sacred first sip of tea. It’s no voices asking or demanding anything of me, not even Xena’s mewling squeaks as she turns her tiny head upward into my face. She knows that I know where the dry food is kept, that it’s not going anywhere, and that I’ll get up from the couch eventually and she won’t go hungry.
Mornings and silence. Better than the best therapist or latest wonder drug.
So relentlessly noisy was our Saturday that on the way home from the Market, Patrick and I both expressed the need for quiet time, alone, space to ourselves and our jumbled thoughts. We ate lunch—he on the couch and I at the kitchen table—generous and respectful space between us, and no hard feelings. We’ve each recently discovered and full-body embraced our latent introverts, a surprising revelation given our backgrounds in sales, networking, and event planning. Coaxed forth like timid rabbits from a warren, this aspect of our psyches now unfolds its legs and claims just the right amount of space in our lives without apology; we are learning its schedule and its needs.
A meal uninterrupted wasn’t enough to reset my inner calm, so I took my introvert, three blankets and as many throw pillows and set myself up beneath the stand of volunteer maples out back (Patrick chose the cheap therapy of giving the trees along the driveway a good trimming). I stretched out full length on my side, my left hand and right foot buried in the grass, and felt every sound that clung to my overloaded central nervous system unhinge itself and sink deep into the soil below. Out of reach and not coming back, I gave in to an afternoon nap that ought to be written up in a medical journal.
Somewhere in that space between jangled nerves and reclaimed peace, I wonder what noise I’m missing—does the blood coursing through my veins make a sound? Besides the snuffling of a raccoon on the edge of the field that I’ll never hear because I wasn’t close enough at the time he made his trek from the woods, what other sounds are just too quiet to hear?
In 2004 and six months later in 2005, I had surgery to replace the stapes bones in each ear. Best not to do them both at the same time, as it would have been all too disturbing to go from hard-of-hearing to deaf, albeit temporary, in just one day. I’d struggled with progressive hearing loss for fifteen years prior, and finally summoned the courage to explore my options. The news was better than I’d anticipated, and the first outpatient procedure took place the week before Christmas. So did the Great Ice Storm of 2004. The barn roof collapsed on seven of our expectant Boer goat does (who survived by moving to either end of the barn safe from the now swayback and sagging roof, where they delivered a total of nine kids in 16 hours), the power went out for nearly a week, and I padded around the house with one good ear, keeping the wood stove full and making oatmeal atop the kerosene heater. I only heard half of any sounds the house might have been making, and nothing at all when I slept on my good ear.
After the second surgery and the subsequent recovery period, I stood on the front deck facing west, and registered the clear and rhythmical knocking sound of a dedicated woodpecker somewhere in the tree line down by the creek. Just beyond her was the hum of traffic on the busier two-lane road a mile away. Traffic I’d never heard since we’d moved here was now annoying and competing with the gentler sounds of nature getting about its workday, a hidden but audible woodpecker taking center stage. Tears tracked the length of my cheeks as I stood unaware of time or place, drinking in only that sound.
I remember one summer maybe six years ago, while Patrick was out west at Sundance, I got all ambitious and decided to redo the master bedroom, from painting the floors and walls to finally, finally, getting the king size bed and box springs up off the floor and into a grown-up bed frame. My sister, Jane and niece Felicia offered to help and I let them. They camped out on the living room floor, windows open to pull in whatever night breeze was available beneath the stars. I got up as I usually do, tiptoeing around the air mattress they shared, and tried to be quiet, but the birds outside the walls and windows weren’t having it. Finches and cardinals and those arguing blue jays insisted we’d slept long enough, and with her face still in the pillow, Jane let loose with a “Shut UP!” that still shakes me with laughter at the memory.
Not a morning person…nope, not at all.
But, someone who appreciates silence. She’s welcome here anytime.