I happened to come across a title for this story through a leaflet that came in the mail. In my case, I’ve learned to listen to inward silence through the practice of meditation. Yet, looking back on my life, I realized silence also spoke to me, in a seemingly different way, especially in nature.
Having been raised on a farm, as a child, I’ve had more opportunities to listen to this silence.
My favorite place as a youngster was behind the barn. I’d stretch my lithe body on the bank and sink into deep tufts of green grass. As I lay there I could hear Pop’s tractor in the distance, even the “cluck cluck” of mother hens in the barn yard. I watched the blue sky playing peek a boo with the clouds. As the sun held me in its warm golden rays, in my childhood reverie, I basked in the stillness of beauty. At least until I heard my mother yell, “Carole, it’s time for supper!”
Another place no one could find me was on my very own island. On this island was a spring, partially covered in a cement hood. From atop the hood, I had a panoramic view of my small isle. From there the water curved and trickled its way to the mound of assorted brush and fell down the “little Niagara.” It then meandered through a pipe under the dirt road, merging, like young lovers, with the creek in the meadow.
If I followed the creek in another direction, about a mile away, it led into a grove of trees. At first, it was scary for me to be so far from home, yet it was too enticing not to visit.
As most farm children did, summer months we were barefoot. And that is how I followed the creek, the water splashing my body.
Once in the grove, I went a slower pace. I’d walk round and round to find the biggest tree. Once found, I’d slump against it and just listen. Animals scurried in the underbrush, making sure I couldn’t see them. On occasion, a frog jumped out of the brush and startled me. The birds sang one song after another to entertain me. When they tired, there was a hush and there seemed to be an endless silence a child would never forget.
Night time was another extraordinary experience of deep silence. Summers, when it got stifling hot in the house, Mom allowed us to take mattresses, sheets, and pillows outside in the yard to sleep under the starry sky. The whole family slept outside. Mom, always the teacher, helped us find the stars, from the Big Dipper to the Bear. Then there was the usual ribbing and joking among the siblings until Pop raised his voice, “Settle. Go to sleep now!”
In time we were all fast asleep. In the midst of a sound sleep, often I’d startle awake to the night sounds: crickets in the meadow, the hoot of an owl in the barn, or the rustling of leaves on trees, from a slight breeze. Above me, stars sparkled and danced in the black sky. This silent, but spectacular show of the stars was mine and mine only.
To this day, I enjoy listening to the rain. I learned to love the rain from my father. Since Pop’s field work was limited during a rain storm, I sat with him on the front porch. We didn’t talk, but I learned the art of listening. Rain gurgled loudly as it rutted its way through the dirt road in front of the house. At times the rain pelted fiercely and other times it pitter pattered on the tin roof above us. Birds, hidden inside tree branches, tweeted constantly about the disturbance. Lightning crackled as it lit up the dark sky in the distance. Near the end of the storm, all the noises ceased in synchronization, like a concert symphony playing its last note. Silence.
Ahh, to go back again and again to the silence in my childhood reverie is a soothing end to my day.