Winter’s Sound of Silence

By Alicia Woodward

Our end of the lake is frozen in suspended stillness. Birds and snowflakes flutter to the ground without a sound. A deer and her fawn pause motionless by the edge of the woods. Fir trees sway to the silent tune of a gentle wind. A red fox tip-toes down a frosty hill.

I wish I could encase the hushed winter scene in the round glass of a snow globe to gaze upon when the lake transforms into a carnival of summer activity.

American author Florence Page Jaques must have understood when she wrote, “I love the deep silence of the midwinter woods. It is a stillness you can rest your whole weight against. This stillness is so profound you are sure it will hold and last.”

I’ve always craved the sound of silence. Growing up, I was blessed with two spirited younger sisters. On inescapable car rides, I longed to stare out the window and daydream while they laughed uproariously, sang off-key and told grueling jokes. I’d wail, “Mom, make them stop!” Happily, the situation is no different now, though my tolerance has improved.
In exchange for getting to read stories and poetry all day, I spent most of my adult life in a small square room with a daily charge of more than 100 boisterous adolescents. Months after I retired from teaching, I still caught myself habitually “shushing” absolutely no one.

My own children were not particularly loud or rambunctious, but my daughter was born belting show tunes. Our home sounded like a never-ending rehearsal for the Tony Awards. Her more reserved younger brother often echoed a familiar refrain, “Mom, make her stop!”

Though I cherish seasons past, they help me appreciate and enjoy the deep silence of the midwinter woods. Each season has something to teach us; winter’s lesson lies in the beauty of her silence. Here are ten ways we can follow winter’s lead to bring a little more peace and quiet to our days.

  1. Speak with a softer volume and tone of voice.
  2. Avoid complaining, gossiping, criticizing, babbling, arguing, and opining.
  3. Turn off the television and other noise in your home.
  4. Ride in the car without music or news.
  5. Take a break from social media.
  6. Pray or meditate in silence.
  7. Engage in a quiet activity like a puzzle or game.
  8. Stop being so busy.
  9. Encourage children to enjoy quiet time.
  10. Observe and learn from winter’s sound of silence.

Listening to the Sound of Silence

What silence can teach us about life

By Korkoi Quaye

The maxim ‘sound of silence’ makes no secret of being an oxymoron. If the definition of silence is the absence of sound, then what does the sound of silence mean? Has there ever been a point in time when sound has been completely absent from this world? Did our ancestors ever experience silence? Surely it must have been more common than in today’s busy, fast-paced world so filled with glowing screens, click bait, and endless notifications.

When silence is extended it is known as solitude, or peace. How far have we distanced ourselves from this; including the lakes, the rivers, and the streams that nurture our inner silence? Where do we stand in relation to the fields where the flowers faithfully follow the sun in the strength of silence? How far do we choose to sit from the old tree that watched silently over us whilst we played barefoot in the grass when we were young?

Silence has become a scarcity. Our workplaces resemble zoos and circuses rather than places that foster focus and deep work. Our egos are loud and noise is often seen as the only measure of productivity. Silence is like an endangered species that, if we are not careful, we may lose and then struggle to revive. There is a breaking point though, one day we will need to tame the zoo and quieten the circus in order to yield to the sound of silence.

We can let silence back into our lives in many ways. Perhaps by experiencing a morning without an alarm, or watching the sun shining through a skylight. Maybe by observing a snail slowly traversing a garden step or by hearing the muffled noise of a train. It might be diving into a cold, deep, blue pool, gliding through the water feeling the bubbles on your face until you gasp for air. It might be the air in your lungs that makes you feel alive again or a cold breeze on wet skin.

Alas, these days, silence in not sexy and is sometimes equated to suffering. Have we demonised it in a way? Are we afraid of it? Perhaps we misconstrue silence to mean ineptitude, indolence, or inertia, rendering it a bad thing. It is true that silence can be uncomfortable. Silence is the compass that leads us to sit with the self and this is sometimes unbearable. But really silence is on our side and silence should be our friend.

Silence can bring people closer together. It is a key ingredient that forms the kind of strength that we need to get through hard times. Like a river, silence flows and offers us the banks upon which we should sit once in a while. And just listen.