The Sound of Silence

What is silence? Is it just lack of sound? We rarely have the opportunity to be somewhere that is totally silent or even almost silent.

Last week I was walking in a snow covered landscape in the Alps, out of range of the road. The usual sound of the river in the valley below was completely muffled by a blanket of snow. There was no wind and for a while the only noise was the sound of my walking poles squeaking as they pushed into the compacted snow.

IMG_1879_2 When I stopped walking I could hear absolutely nothing at all apart from a slight ringing in my ears. The silence felt palpable, it had a presence rather than being an absence.

After a few moments of paying attention I felt rather than heard a couple of minute sounds which dropped into this space; a tiny muffled gurgle of water in a stream running under the snow and then a short sharp squawk of a bird.

IMG_1942I’ve read that silence is the vast space in which sounds happen. Without silence there could be no sound. I now know what that means.

Back in London I go into my not so quiet garden. I hear the planes and the traffic but now I can tune into the huge silence which contains these sounds. By actively listening to the small sounds of the garden, water dripping, birds singing, the rustling of leaves I can turn my attention away from the discordant noise and towards the peaceful silence that holds everything within it.

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