You’re reading on a beautiful fall day, maybe on the porch or by an open window–because the day is so lovely. Then your neighbor–the yard proud folks across the street–start up their leaf blower. Not to be outdone, the gal next to them has to do her weed whacking at the same time. What are beautiful fall days for, after all?
When the weed whacker and the leaf blower finally fall silent, you rejoice. You feel bodily and emotional relief, and will wish a Very Bad Fate on the next joker who fires up some piece of equipment.
You’re experiencing the benefits of quiet, which are physiological and emotional. Silence helps lower our blood pressure and increase blood flow to our brains, it promotes the generation of new brain cells, reduces stress, and fosters creativity.
Noise, by contrast isn’t such a good thing. Loud noise wrecks our hearing of course, but even noise that’s not loud enough to hurt our hearing does damage. We learn to tune it out–which means we’re also tuning out things we should be listening to, like classroom teachers. We become “attentionally deaf” instead of aurally deaf.
Sudden noises (think of a jackhammer starting up, stopping, starting up; car horns; engine backfires), provokes our stress response, and if we endure too much of that, the results can affect our heart health, sleeping patterns, even our basal metabolic rates.
I didn’t start writing fiction until my daughter moved out. She’s a quiet person, but when she got her own apartment, the house became all but silent. A cat scampering across the kitchen, the well pump cutting on and off in the basement, a dog barking two farms over… that is the extent of the noise in my nest. I can daydream and compose stories in peace.
I’ve wondered if half the benefit of meditation isn’t simply that we tend to find quiet places to attempt it. Same for reading. We can read in noisy environments, but most often, we read where it’s quiet. We garden where it’s quiet. One of the reasons I do not like the gym is because it’s NEVER quiet.
When it comes to silence, I’m wealthy, compared to most people. My office is quiet, my house is quiet. I drive between the two for the most part in silence, or I might listen to traditional Scottish music, which is hardly truck-thumping stuff. I sit out on my front porch with my first cup of tea of the day, and often, not a single care goes by.
in this raucous, noisy, contentious season, where do you have silence? Where could you add some to your weekly routine? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Lenora Bell’s “If I Only Had a Duke,” which is about a lady who only seems quiet-natured….