Quiet, not Silence

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all ~ Emily Dickinson

moonThe silence this morning was deafening. The dark days are upon us in the northern hemisphere – each bright day shrinking, each dark night expanding, until the solstice shifts the tide in a few weeks.  A full moon and its subsequent reduced appearances have awakened me each morning long before daylight.  I admit to a modest glass of chardonnay sipped yesterday morning at 5:30 A.M. – the moon was so bright that I couldn’t sleep, it seemed more like night than morning, and so I paid homage to its lingering light. Balanced on the edge of night and morning on an unseasonably warm night, the moon and stars ruled the pre-dawn sky.

This morning, however, the moon had already set and I stood in the dark before dawn, with no dawn “chorus.” A moist and silent cloud of dampness filled the air – no birds, no insects, no creature noises filled the void, only a distant hum of traffic.  Who is up and about at 5:30 A.M.?  And so a damp cloak of emptiness became a shroud of sorts.  I can do without sunlight but can I live in a silent world?  Isn’t that the real nightmare of the imagined apocalypse? Not the visual destruction but the absence of sound?

Now, at noon, a dozen birds have added their voices to the world.  Bluejays, cardinals, sparrows, woodpeckers, and hawks all spin their songs around me as Angel and I venture into the woods.  It is a comfort, to know that stillness and silence may dwell within but the murmur of the natural world goes on, each voice in its perfect place in nature’s orchestra. I sigh and something inside, a tight kernel of fear and tension, relaxes and dissolves.  I take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet murmur of nature’s world around me, every sound, every voice, every song present and accounted for.  All is well, and if it is quiet, that is the way of things in nature in this season.

Why most birds don’t sing in winter

And birds singing in winter.

21 thoughts on “Quiet, not Silence

  1. I am imagining that silence is an extremely important part of sound to a musician. Not being one, I can only imagine, but it must be like the lack of light, or perhaps too much light, is to a photographer. Darkness is an essential part of photography and something to be relished and understood perhaps in similar ways that silence (and cacophony?) are in music. I love silence and find that it is often inspiring to my picture taking as well – it is relaxing and usually solitary and often for me found in the forest or on a remote beach.

  2. Lynn. I stopped by your place today because I’m so agitated in spirit from the shooting of the children in Newtown, CT. Your site is where I come when I need to calm my spirit. I read through what I’ve missed until I come to one that touches my heart and then I linger. This one hit the spot today. My favorite time of day is 5:00 a.m. during any season because it’s when I can quiet as much of the manmade noises as possible (have you ever noticed how many manmade sounds are constantly intruding on our psyche?). You reminded me that I’ve missed a couple of those soul-strengthening mornings. If I ever hear the voice of God it is then–as gentle as a feather and as soft as a breeze. Next time I’ll add the glass of chardonay if I don’t have to go to work. Thank you for providing such a nuturing, quiet place. One of your best fans.

    • “Your site is where I come when I need to calm my spirit.” Eleanor, you could not have given me a greater compliment, ever. If I can do that for others, I am more than content. Quiet times are so nurturing; we do live in a noisy world and I certainly am always trying to find quiet in the world of nature. I DO recommend the “modest” glass of chardonnay on occasion – seems to clarify the moment if not overdone. Here is to moments of quiet and gentle peace 🙂

  3. This is such a lovely post, Lynn. I’m not sure it’s ever really quiet here, but that may be because the air is rarely still so there’s always a rustle of grasses or branches, the creaking of a tree, or even the faint sound of the water in the pond sloshing near shore. The full moon had me awake in the wee hours too. Wish I’d thought to indulge in a modest glass of wine while I was up. 🙂

    • Thanks, Robin. I think it was the wet and foggy air that created such an eerie silence; later the sounds of life outside came back but quietly. I think I miss the continuous hum and buzz of August and September. I’m going “sound hunting” later this month to gather nature sounds for my new project – can’t wait!

  4. Lovely, and you’re so right, there is a ‘quiet murmur’ at this time that I so much enjoy at the end of a busy season.

  5. I think you’re right, Lynn…there’s a very subtle–but highly significant–difference between silence and quiet, perhaps best expressed in terms of one’s reaction to them. The former is unsettling, if not a bit frightening; the latter is soothing.

    A very inspiring piece; thanks for posting it.

  6. Just beautiful, Lynn, and if it’s any consolation, I’ll be toasting you from Full Moon when the moon is full, especially if we receive snow; then, even closed curtains don’t block the light. I’m one who loves the silence of winter, but am always grateful for the cardinals and chickadees, who continue to chirp and sing around the feeder. And of course, the owl hoots are more powerfully commanding in winter, too! Thank you for another sensitive and wonderfully-constructed meditation.

  7. Chardonnay at 5:30am, oh I like your style.

    Your description of the ambiance of silence captures the imagination -paradisaical stylings certainly, cerebral or more of emotion am not sure but shweeet none the less.

    I had the scariest, yet invigorating experience in my early twenties when I decided to bush it into a remote log cabin in northern Ontario at night. I started the first stage at midnight crossing a lake in the moonlight. Sitting in canoe bathed in moonlight in the middle of a northern lake cause an atheist to question their reasoning , Next up, an the scary part, almost two miles through the bush to the cabin. I did it to test my metal. An a test it was. The noises were as you said, deafening. Rain drops, from a mid day rain still fell from old growth pine. Crashing and exploding only to be replaced by any number forest noises. Everything that sleeps by day is awake an on the move at night. I was convinced the sounds where following me. Anyways it all turned out, the noises took pity on me and I arrived safe and sound feeling alive. Now, darkness and the sounds that live there I see more as friends I highly respect. I did a similar hike this past summer and if felt just as scary and just as good afterwards. Next time I do this I have to remember to pack a bottle of Chardonnay.

  8. Winter on the gulf coast is full of false starts. It gets cold, you make a fire,
    and suddenly it decides to be ninety degress again. It’s as if mother nature
    is fooling with you. Not till feburary does winter begin in earnest. Then in
    march it’s over. Such a tease. My brother hates it.

    but there are moments – I stayed home once during the new years celibrations and
    listened to people tring to pop fireworks in an opake fog – I felt like I was hearing the
    sounds of the real world from some other. It wasen’t silent, but it was eerie.

  9. One night last week will sitting in the outdoor tub of warm water, we talked about the silence … no singing frogs, no crickets, nothing except the occasionally rustling of leaves due to a moving creature. Nonetheless, it was very relaxing.

  10. I went to tern off the kitchen
    light last night but it
    was the moon light,
    Almost a haiku. Your beautiful thoughtful post inspired poetry. Thank you for the birds chorus. Is that your snow? I am a big fan of the dark and how it makes light so much brighter.

    • Hi Carol. I love your tale of trying to turn out the lights; I remember that happening with me when I was a child, asking my mother to turn out the lights and it was the moon. The video was not mine, just something I found with lovely bird song in winter. As I proceed with my “Year in Penn’s Woods” I hope to have my own clips soon. 🙂

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