Quiet

Since my recent post, Listen, I came across The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Paying Attention by Julia Cameron. Perhaps you recognize her name from The Artist’s Way.

In The Listening Path, Cameron includes a chapter entitled “Listening to Silence.” She introduces this chapter with a quote by Alfred Brendel: The word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent.”

She urges us to seek quiet:

I’m a person who craves quiet moments. My husband does not. He always, always has the TV running, even when he’s in another room; he has to have sound. I sometimes wonder if he fears quiet. I will stay up late at night or get up early in the morning to write in the silence before life awakens and begins stirring around me. When I was writing the poem “Listen” no one was home and the TV was off. I listened to the sea of my own mind, for what would surface. The house, cooling in late afternoon of a warm day, popped so loudly that I jumped—sounds were definitely “more pronounced.” And what does the house have to say? What does the silence itself have to say?

It occurs to me that quiet is one of the benefits of night. That is often the only time we are quiet. We know the brain repairs itself while we sleep. Does quiet not bring healing to the mind? Is quiet itself a form of repair, inherent in sleep? A release, for opening the gate to a “higher force”? Perhaps that is a fearsome thing. What might be heard?

One doctor I know said that dreams are the brain’s way of entertaining us while we sleep, but…tonight, as as I sit in the quiet, finishing this post before going to bed, I am thinking of a young boy who heard a voice in his dreams. He’d been kidnapped at sixteen and taken to a far country where he was a slave for six years. He learned the value of prayer in captivity, tending sheep. This night, the voice told him he’d go back to his homeland; his ship was ready. And it was. He escaped and found it, two hundred miles away in a place he’d never been before. He went home. Yet he’d eventually return to the land of his captors. He had work to do there. In Ireland.

His name, of course, was Patrick.

His day is hardly one associated with “quiet.” But in the spirit of one who listened…let us seek the quiet and what it offers; let us practice the art of paying attention; let us claim the calm and carry it with us, throughout the clamor, in all the work we have to do. Let us enter into quiet…and find our path.

Of special note in this regard: My grandfather’s middle name was—I promise I am not making this up—St. Patrick. I wrote about this a few years ago: My Grandfather, St. Patrick. In my lifetime, he was a quiet man. Not to be confused with the movie.

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The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 17, I am writing around a word beginning with letter q.

25 thoughts on “Quiet

    • Thank you, Ramona. I’d committed myself to this “abc” approach and wondered how I might tie q to the day. I usually write about my grandfather, who’s of Irish descent, and who’s middle name was – I am not making this up – St. Patrick. He was from rural NC and the family wasn’t Catholic, at least in the last six generations. Always feel I should acknowledge the day…and the young Patrick’s listening opened the door. Thank you for responding to that!

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  1. I embrace quiet. Our house is often too noisy, even w/ only two people here. The night is quiet but not silent. When we traveled to Ireland in 2018 I looked for the quiet in nature. We have so many distractions, and I’m not convinced people need noise in the background, although many think they do.

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    • There is healing in the quiet of nature, and in the quiet of night, if one’s mind can settle from the bombardments of the day. Maybe a matter of finding quiet pockets – a challenge, to be sure.

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  2. Quiet is the perfect word for Q, and what a fascinating approach, Fran. I’m going to have to go back and read some of the other letters.

    I love your reflections on quiet. My husband and yours could get together and enjoy the noise, and you and I could get together and turn everything off. I so understand and appreciate quiet!

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    • When I got to Q I knew I did NOT want to write about ‘quarantine’! The alphabetic approach has been a fun frame. Sometimes I toyed with several word choices, so now I have some leftover Slices, lol. It has taken my thinking in interesting directions where it might not have before. Many thanks, Melanie.

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  3. Fran, a soothing and thoughtful slice. I also “crave quiet moments.” My husband also likes to keep the “TV running.” I feel calm after quiet moments and I do believe those moments are healing. I think it’s a way to find inner piece; it’s like you need to reconnect to yourself. Meditate. These sentences spoke to me:
    “I listened to the sea of my own mind, for what would surface.”
    “Let us claim the calm and carry it with us, throughout the clamor, in all the work we have to do.” I think especially in today’s world of high tech noise and fast paced life people would feel happier, if they turned all the noise off and just breathed in the quiet. Perhaps, some have to be taught how to do this. Thank you, I enjoyed your post and the way you weaved in history of St. Patrick and your grandfather. Happy St. Patrick’s day.

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    • Reconnecting, meditating… resting the mind and spirit, surely healing. I agree with your observations on the fast pace, noise, etc. calling for more time to “breathe in quiet.” Many thanks for these thoughts, Gail.

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  4. It may not surprise you to learn that I am also a lover of quiet. What you especially appreciate about your post, and what I need to take to heart, is that quiet isn’t just the absence of noisy things. It’s also the practice of stillness, aloneness. That’s a practice I’d like to incorporate more, I think. Thanks also for this story of St. Patrick. I love learning new things!

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    • That’s an excellent point, Lainie, and I hope the post isn’t misinterpreted as advocating for an absence of all noise (silence). We can BE silent of course as we practice stillness, aloneness, opening our minds…that’s exactly where I was coming from. Trust you to perceive-! I hesitated bringing St. P in but decided at the last to do so – because I can’t not acknowledge the day, with my odd connection to that name. Thank you ☘️

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  5. I am up early to have a quiet house to myself; I think that’s why writing at night didn’t work out for me, as my husband is in the next room with the TV on until long past my bedtime. Of course, I added Julia Cameron’s book to a shopping cart before I even finished reading this post, even though The Artist’s Way still sits unread in one of the multitude of reading piles scattered throughout my house. Nice segue to sleep, then St Patrick; I didn’t see it coming! I love his story, love the Irish connections in my family, and need to return to my once-daily habit of praying Patrick’s Lorica each morning, reminding me of our connections to Nature and the glory of Creation.

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    • I love the Lorica; reread it while preparing this post. The quietness of morning is restorative to me. It links to meditation, prayer… savoring and being “tuned in.” Thanks for this beautiful connection to nature & Creation. All matters of the spirit. You must let me know what you think of the book!

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  6. Can one love quiet and still rejoice at the sounds of children laughing, of the sea lapping the shore, of the gentle rain tapping against the window pane? Quiet sounds are always around us, even as we seek silence. I, myself, find complete silence difficult to achieve and difficult to tolerate. While the TV doesn’t have to be on 24/7, I like something in the background–music mostly. Otherwise, I obsess.

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    • No one would ever hope for all silence, I think! Cicadas in the summer is one of my favorite sounds on Earth, and they are LOUD. Then there’s wind chimes, and music… many people function best when listening to soft music. It is quieting. I see seeking quiet moments (key word) as a recharging, an uncluttering, an opening. Makes all those other sounds we rejoice in ever more pronounced.

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  7. Yes, I love quietness and silence too and like you my husband prefers noise, usually music as background or just there. So I too relish the quiet moments when no one else is up, except maybe a quiet cat, late at night or early in the morning. Silence does speak to us!

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  8. Like you, I seek quiet. I love the early morning time before the world wakes up. St. Patrick should be celebrated with a moment of silence. I like how you slipped seamlessly into his story in this slice.

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  9. This was a fun way to share the story of St. Patrick. Quiet (being present and being still) is something that I am still working on – some days I am better at it than others.

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      • I currently big extremes – so much life at school and when my kids are at home. And then it is really quiet when I am at home and my kids are not with me… I find that sometimes the quiet is so welcoming and peaceful and other times I hate it!

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