The Gift Of Silence

Jennifer - Gloucester, Virginia
Entered on July 25, 2006

I believe in the power of silence. Our world is so enmeshed in noise—music blaring, horns honking angry messages, and newscasters loudly hawking their leading, bleeding stories. With noise surrounding us, we can hide from ourselves. We hide the diamonds of our shortcomings, secret fears, and dreams beneath a rocky façade of small talk and beeping microwaves.

Lately, the need for silence has overwhelmed me. After two miscarriages in three months, I wanted to disappear to the menstrual tent like Native women of long ago did faithfully every month. I wanted time for a vision quest—to sit in the woods until I figured out the meaning of all the sadness surrounding me.

Before, silence had never been a priority for me. The louder the music, the better, as I drove down the road. If the radio refused to play good music, I called someone. Yes, I liked alone time, I liked quiet when I wrote articles, but I suddenly sought silence like a miner seeks gold.

Silence became a priceless gem, always slightly out of reach, in the next vein buried under the rocks of my responsibilities, way too big to budge. Everyone had needs: my step-children needed chauffeuring, my students needed lessons, and my husband needed help with a major presentation. Phones rang, video games bleeped, and someone just wanted to talk. The world would not give me any space. So I took it. Right in the middle of dinner or folding a pile of laundry, I would disappear.

At first everyone grumbled. Why won’t she get her act together? Why is she lying in the hammock instead of eating her spaghetti?

I was lying in the hammock, surrounded by birdsong, frog chirps, and brushing leaves. Silence is not without sound. The purity and blending of the sounds around me created a natural quiet, a stillness inside of me—no real answers, just a steadiness. I saw the darkness of thoughts-patterns that kept me from achieving childhood dreams and goals, and I mined the grief that encapsulated my heart. Sometimes I felt like the universe had turned me upside down and was shaking me to see what would fall out.

One night while I was creating my silence with a run through the woods, I began to hear my heartbeat. I heard my own blood, my being pulsing in my ears. I realized the miraculousness of life, everyone’s life, including my own. Whether or not I could give life was not the most important thing—my own ideas, choices, and dreams were well within my control. As I silenced the safety net of the world’s noise, I could hear my husband on our tractor disking our new garden, while my stepchildren laughed in the distance, planting the rows. As I watched them all, fully captivated by the process, with little concern about the outcome, I could see that the treasure had been before me all along. Embracing the moment was my goldmine, the gift of the silence.