Every year, I find myself writing about quiet.
Sometimes It’s a brush with nature that sets into motion a craving for silence, for a relief from the frenzied bustle of human-created activity. Sometimes It’s a sudden appreciation for the peaceful background noise that surrounds us?that so-called ?white noise? that is as much a part of the fabric of our surroundings as the paint on the walls or the smooth paneling of the desk. But the longing to write about it seems to recur, and why shouldn’t it?
The need for silence is written on the human heart, and whether we seek it within sunlit rooms or the dimness of the forest our minds may be restless and undecided until we find it. I’d always thought that silence somehow required the absence of noise, the removal of anything technological, and the blandness of white walls or green leaves.
This year, I discovered something new: it is possible to find quiet in busyness.
Does that sound like a contradiction? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Have you ever started working on some project?home renovating, art, writing, gardening?only to find out that hours had passed without your realization? Have you ever gone for a run, or danced, or played the violin, working or playing with such drive and intensity that your mind cleared of worries? Has an afternoon of yard work or yoga somehow given you perspective on a big decision you had to make?
Sometimes when we seek silence we focus too hard on eliminating outside distractions: no radio, no phone, and especially no Internet, that oft-maligned ?source of all ills.? But interior distractions?worries, fears, decision-making, and the jumbled thoughts of what should I do, what will I do, how will I do it?are just as bad. In fact, we can create the quietest environment possible, yet still won’t find there the silence we need. Outer quiet isn’t always the answer.
Trying to do nothing and expecting that somehow the silence we’re basking in will illuminate us can be an exercise in futility when It’s not what we’re really seeking. On the other hand, deep involvement with just one task or project is often a wonderful source of contentment and clarity.
Fully immersing ourselves in anything is a lost art. we’re plagued by distractions from both outside and within. I’m researching something, and I’ll get an email alert?or the phone will ring?or perhaps I’ll take a quick break and meander onto Facebook. I’ll see a spill on the carpet and go clean it. It’s time to pay that bill. I need a snack. My blog has 67 drafts in its folder. My browser has nine tabs up, and I’ve got seven files open. And That’s on the low side of my norm. Distracted much?
The other day, exhausted from several days of travelling, camping, and hiking, I spent the afternoon with my laptop, doing a bit of house-hunting online. It sounds boring. It sounds pathetic, actually. Who spends her vacation doing stuff like that?
And yet it was exactly what I’d needed.
All the hubbub of our recent move, home sale, and driving meant that I had far too many tabs open in my mind. That afternoon, for a few hours, everything else was closed while I zeroed in on just one thing.
I felt as drained as though I’d run a marathon?but perhaps as elated, because I’d finally, finally gotten a break. It was refreshing, better than any hike I’d taken or novel I’d read recently.
The summertime, that brief respite before fall brings its more hectic schedule, is the ideal time to take some space and clear our minds. Instead of seeking solitude, consider spending a few hours focussing on a task, activity, or hobby. You might find It’s as therapeutic as days and days in the woods.