Silence and Solitude

“We live in a world starved for solitude and silence and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”

C.S. Lewis

Rain here generally beats rhythmically as it bounces on the roofs and pavement that stop its fall, but on occasion gusting winds morph its pleasant tattoo into an insistent pounding that’s certainly capable of waking the living, if not the dead. While not quite dead, I am a light sleeper and it seems that at some point in my life I have really angered Morpheus. He has refused to intercede on my behalf, so, I’ve moved from bed to desk in hopes that some worthy thought will be scribed before first light rises. Unfortunately, concentration is uneasy, and, so, as I often do when stymied, I start to play with words. It’s far simpler than counting sheep and since I’m given to free association, the game, as Sherlock would say, is afoot – at least until the sun rises. What falls from the sky? Other than rain of a tympanic nature there is snow and it, of course, falls without a whisper. Snow is silent.

When I was quite young, my family lived in an apartment building with windows that had leaded panes. In winter the windows would alternately frost and thaw and they became the canvas on which my sister and I would draw. The crystalline formations were the immediate attraction, but we also found that rubbing or blowing a warm breath onto the panes would clear them enough to view weather conditions outside. It was our snow alert system and, as any five-ish child can tell you, newly fallen snow is silent. They care not a whit about its density or the absorption of sound waves. Snow is silent because they believe it to be so. No other proof is necessary. They’re firmly convinced that only the first to see and claim fresh snow will be able to make perfect snow angels. All others, apparently, will look fallen or, at the very least, walked on. There is also a secondary issue with snow that concerns status. Status is granted only to those whose footprints first disturb a fresh snowfall. It would be years before we learned Amundsen planted his country’s flag at the South Pole, but we understood its symbolism without being told. Snow became fertile ground for our imaginations, and, in later years, when snow tracks and angels were forgotten, the silence and solitude of those adventures proved fertile training ground for the enforced solitude of the pandemic years.

“When all the people unlocked their doors, they saw that the kingdom had changed. With the towns quiet and the roads empty, the land had grown greener and the skies had grown bluer. The trees were taller, there were flowers everywhere and the air was filled with the singing of birds.”― Jason Hook, Castle Barmy

We began dealing with Covid-19 ten months ago. Since then, days have run into each other and are so much alike that calendar confirmation is required to identify exactly which day of the week is unfolding. Instinctively, we/I understand that nothing lasts forever, but there are times I wish for an ostrich-like simplicity that would allow reality, at least the harshest parts of it, to evade me for a while. A lot of what I see and hear is simply beyond the comprehension of anyone who believes in science, medicine or the goodness of the other pilgrims who share this strange journey with us. I do hope that Jason Hook is right and once this veil has lifted we will see a bluer, greener and more caring world than the one we left behind, but there are other visions we can’t help but carry with us to whatever that world might be.

Do you remember that first day of mid-March lockdown, when for all intents and purposes our world stood still? I am an early morning walker, usually out the door by 7:00 am, because I love the quiet the early hours afford. This, however, was a morning like no other. There is a highway to the right of my home and a major thoroughfare on the left. Both were completely devoid of traffic, but what struck me as odd were still the operating lights signaling traffic to stop, go and turn. As I approached the mid-point of my walk I had yet to see another waking soul and I suddenly had the feeling I was the lone survivor in an apocalyptic movie where a disaster destroyed mankind but left structures intact. Several months later, severe fires engulfed huge swaths of Oregon turning the atmosphere a Martian orange that was thick with chocking smoke. Standard masks offered little, if any, protection and this time there was no escaping the silence and enforced solitude presented to us. The fires, of course, passed and traffic has returned. I am again walking and can hear the murmur of voices, distant horns and wind gusting through the pines, but times and things have changed. It is not my intent to leave you with an apocalyptic vision of what is to come. I have been overwhelmed by the lack of caring that I have seen this past year, but I have also seen quiet miracles and touching outreach. We have not lost our ability to shape our environment. My own spirits were lifted as I walked this morning. I heard a baby cry. That’s always life affirming, as is the thought that one small life will have no memory of a year we would all like to forget.

6 thoughts on “Silence and Solitude

  1. Thank you for your post, it has been a long time since I got one and I really appreciated your words and thoughts. I still go back to book club reading lists since I am out of my own books and look for new offerings. Walking and also reading have been sustaining for me during our covid winter. May you stay healthy and active! Sincerely, Carol Hurd


  2. Mary,

    This is beautiful, as always, and mirrors my own thoughts and feelings. I wasn’t able to post on the page due to forgetting an old password. (One more thing to do in 2021… organize passwords.)

    It’s good to see you writing again… albeit for unfortunate reasons.

    Hugs, Ann

    “In music, in the sea, in a flower, in a leaf, in an act of kindness…

    I see what people call God in all these things.” – Pablo Casals



  3. Dear Mary,

    Greetings from Perth, Western Australia.

    It has been awhile since your last post and it is always a pleasure to read your ruminations. You are a gifted writer and your stories are always so interesting. Thank you.

    Warmest Regards for a safe and happy New Year.

    Patricia ________________________________


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