“The Joy of Quiet,” an article by Pico Iyer in the New York Times cites a growing trend of setting aside time to escape from telephones, email, newspapers, Facebook and other distractions. Mr. Iyer says he retreats to a monastery several times a year to free himself from the news of the world and find peace and quiet. (Years ago, I had a brief, but thrilling conversation with him over one of his books and his love life.)
Freedom from communications is one kind of quiet. The snowfalls we’ve experienced here for the last few days offer another kind: a few hours of absolute stillness unmarred by the usual sounds of traffic. No cars have traveled down our street today, including the one belonging to the newspaper carrier. The only noise I hear is the strumming of a guitar in another room of the house. Otherwise, complete silence.
I’m not the only one who benefits from silence. One organization, One Square Inch, A Sanctuary for Silence at Olympic National Park, has found “the quietest place in the United States” in the Hoh Rain Forest. The group expects that “if a loud noise, such as the passing of an aircraft, can impact many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a 100% noise-free condition, will also impact many square miles around it.”
We find quiet — broken only by the occasional airplane — in rural areas, Winthrop, WA being one of our favorites. My husband remembers hearing the sound of snowflakes landing on the shoulder of his parka while cross-country skiing.
Silence isn’t for everyone. While eating dinner in the Duck Brand restaurant in Winthrop, we overheard a child complaining to his mother, “It’s too dark and quiet here. I can’t sleep.”