Last summer I took my solo journey to Kentucky where I had a two-week writer’s residency at Artcroft. It was very quiet there in the countryside without the noise of television, wi-fi, or conversation– since there was no other artist joining me. The only interruption to the silence was an occasional bird call, mooing cow, or vehicle passing by on the dirt road outside my gatehouse.
The days I stayed in to write instead of driving to the Paris-Bourbon library, I felt myself slow down to the pace of silence. It reminded me of a word I first learned when I read the book When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. In her story, she tells of her season of waiting– as if she was in a cocoon and knew she couldn’t rush the process. She learns from her mentor, Dr. Beatrice Bruteau, the meaning of the word entrainment.
“It’s the phenomenon of two rhythmic beings gradually altering their movements until they’re moving together in the same rhythm,” Dr. Bruteau tells her and gives examples of pendulums, crickets, and people talking. “We tend to align ourselves with the rhythm and pace around us.”
I felt that Dr. Bruteau became my mentor, too, as I read that book and considered the frenetic pace of my life. As a nurse in a middle school, I worked in an environment of constant adolescent chatter, as well as staff and students rushing about the chaotic hallways. When I left work, I played music on my drive. Once home, I often turned on the television to watch the news or listen to some show while cooking dinner. Sometimes on my evening walks, I made phone calls.
I keep myself immersed in noise, I realized. No wonder the quiet of my new Kentucky home was so unfamiliar. At first, I was a bit restless, wanting some background music to keep me from feeling unsettled and alone. It reminded me of the awkwardness I experienced when I began taking solo journeys. Over time, with each successful trip completed, the unfamiliar became familiar and even comfortable. Silence could be the same way.
Once I let go of my restlessness, I saw that time seemed to expand when you allowed the day to be quiet. I paid attention to nature’s cycle with the sun rising and setting, and the moon announcing the end to my day’s labor. I could dive deeper into writing my memoir without distracting sounds. Years before when in college, I discovered that I studied most efficiently with better recall when isolated in a library study carrel. All these years later and I was rediscovering the benefit of solitude and silence.
During my stay at Artcroft, I grew more comfortable with silence. I wasn’t startled by the sounds of animals or the occasional car traveling past my home that interrupted that still space. The days when I used the library wi-fi, I noticed that compared to the house, the library was almost noisy.
When I traveled back to North Carolina, I realized that the boon, or blessing that I returned with, was a new capacity for silence. I planned to be more intentional in how I created the space around me. It took going west to find a land of silence and I wanted to make that discovery a part of every day of my life.
What about you?
Do you keep yourself immersed in noise?
How would it impact your life to have more silence in your day?
What are ways you could take control in creating a more quiet environment?