I live my life by trying to avoid silence. I mean sometimes I think everything is silent but it never is… Except one time I was down a mine; a coal mine. Everyone stopped talking and there was nothing – no birds, no traffic – nothing. Just cold and damp and rock.
Yet the man in front of me had worked in a mine most of his life, he had lived with this. He still did. He would take tours and rotate onto the lift controls. There are two, one topside and one below ground. When he is between tours there must be silence.
You might think there is silence when you sit and have no music on or no one is there, but it isn’t truly silent. There is traffic or nature.
Nature is very loud. She can scream at times, day and night. I live in the country and I know she is always making her presence known. At night there are owls and foxes, the trees rustling and mice moving. Chickens settling for the night and the odd scream of an unfortunate creature.
Silence, I think can denote loneliness. Except I have never been lonely in my workshop on the smallholding although no one can be around the whole day. Sure sometimes I play music or listen to an audio book (normally when I’m drawing) but sometimes I turn everything off.
Then I hear nature and she reminds me I am just one cog in a massive wheel.
The only time I was truly alone, so much so that I ran, was when I was on a writing retreat. It was in a beautiful building that had been home to monks. I guess I lucked out on the rooms. I found myself in a typical monk cell with a 2ft 6in bed and a table. A bathroom that had no shower and a small window. The problem was I could hear everything. The rattle of the kitchen and the traffic, people’s voices and their laughter. But I was alone.
I was on my own with no one who wanted to talk to me… I don’t know whether it was because I had a cold or I was just feeling vulnerable but I was lonely.
The silence of the unfamiliar grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. In my own space silence doesn’t scare me. But outside… In the world… It worries me.
I still avoid it, but that is because I love music and learning. I fill me days with what I love and I try to listen to something new everyday. Today it is Beth Orton…
Maybe it isn’t silence I need to be scared of but being alone, even when in a crowd.
Update – the Beth Orton link is now fixed… Sorry for that.