Finding silence where we can

7:30 a.m. That’s when the trouble begins: heavy equipment chomps down on the collections of wood, metal and plastic that once were houses, making our house rumble while they’re at it. Following this, the new construction begins with a bang, literally, from the rat-a-tats of pneumatic nailers and the many tons of gravel cascading out of the beds of dump trucks.

This is an outline of the months-long story of four houses — one next door — demolished and being rebuilt on our short block. When we moved to this neighborhood of ordinary 1950’s ramblers umpteen years ago, we never guessed years later we’d be living on a street as popular as the football players and cheerleaders when we were in high school. We’re thankful there are only a few more houses within our hearing left to tear down.

The only comfort is that if we have plumbing problems in the next half year, we’ve got several porta-potties a few yards away to choose from.

In the midst of this chaos, I read a review of a book called “Silence in the Age of Noise,” and rushed to my library. I had hoped author Erling Kagge would make me feel better about whining, by saying that living with this daily noise was hard on my body and mind and my complaining was completely justified.

But no. Instead he talks about how poorly many of us use the quiet times we have, as in research subjects who find electric shocks preferable to sitting alone with their thoughts for fifteen minutes. He talks about how we’re “altered by the technology we employ…constantly interrupted, interruptions engendered by other interruptions.”

He doesn’t argue that our neighborhoods should become quieter, as I’d hoped, but says that we don’t recognize the potential for silence within us. “Silence can be anywhere, anytime — it’s just in front of your nose. I create it for myself when I walk up the stairs, prepare food..the potential wealth of being an island for yourself is something you carry around with you all the time.”

After reading these words I started to feel better. Then I opened our back door. It’s hard to find the silence within me when the arborist is using his sputtering chain saw to limb a tree next door.

When things get too noisy, my current solution is to lull myself into calm by reading from one of my many books of haiku poetry. These poets know how to create silence within us using only a few words.

After a long day
With contagious yawns
We parted.

The mountain stream
Milled the rice for me
While I took a nap.

Tired and worn
Seeing an inn
I stopped to gaze at the wisteria flowers

I feel better now.  It also helps that the workers are gone for the day.










About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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2 Responses to Finding silence where we can

  1. nsinui says:

    Another good one, Ann! We have a lot less construction noise than you do, though tree trimming is always a possibility. Fortunately no one wants to tear down houses in our immediate neighborhood. They are all old (1880’s – 1920”s) or new (2000’s) required to look old for a historic preservation district built to fill in holes. I find musical noise in restaurants usually irritating, too loud, and disruptive. Wish it weren’t so prevalent.


  2. travelnwrite says:

    To our left the heavy machine climbs the hillside its pounding through the ages old rock reverberates through the valley below. To our right another clanks with steady beat as it drills a well, again the sound traveling fast and sure. Even ‘quiet’ remote areas such as hillsides in Greece where we live are not safe from growth. I remind myself that there was a time when my home was built that the noise was probably just as bad for those around here. Still the birdsong wakes and notes the end of the day. Life is good.

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