the woods behind my growing-up house were an invitation. i spent hours in that little forest, planning routes and solving mysteries. at the other end of the woods, near clay pitts road, was a small goat farm, so if you traipsed through all the way – which, in retrospect, wasn’t really far – you would get to the fence where you could watch the goats. my next-door neighbors – there were eight kids in the family – and my across-the-street neighbors and i would devise all manner of woods-play. mostly, i loved the quiet.
the maple tree – my poetry tree – was right outside my bedroom window and provided safe limbs for writing in notebooks, reading, reflecting. long hours, my back against the strong trunk, sun filtered through thick leaves or branches ready to withstand winter. so many lessons with so little. mostly, i loved the quiet.
our river trail is not out in the wilderness. it takes us through woods and past meadows along the river, but is just a hop, skip and a jump from our home. it is restorative. last saturday, a white-tailed deer jumped across our path, bounded through the waning underbrush. hawks flew over us, chipmunks scampered, squirrels chattered from trees, admonishing us not to interrupt their work. there’s that the smell of pine and decaying leaves that even the best scented candles cannot capture. mostly, i love the quiet.
and those trails up in the mountains. for days i am breathless, adjusting to altitude, me: sea-level-raised with a mostly almost-sea-level-adulthood. i hike anyway, stopping often, sipping water. though i am a big lover of deserted beach walking and have logged plenty of time especially on long island and beaches of the east coast, the dirt under my feet through forested mountain is a salve. i agree with john muir: “and into the forest i go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”
as i write, the neighbors behind us are installing conduit all along the chain link fence, preparing to provide electricity to yet more spotlights high in the trees, a big yard full of stuff-to-do like a full-size batting cage, swingset and fort, soccer nets, battery-driven atvs, bikes, large plastic-ware toys, trampoline, zipline, loud outdoor speakers, and – i suspect – a revisit of the ice rink. the tallest trees have been wired with the brightest lights and i know that will mean later evenings where quiet at the end of the day is not valued. no longer the “sanctuary” others used to call the yard beyond ours, it makes me kind of sad thinking that so very much is required for this young family to be happily entertained. it makes me sad thinking that it is possible – these days – for people to forget that they live in community with others. we are not islands upon ourselves. what we do impacts those around us…even in our very own backyards.
fred rogers said, “i wonder what some people are afraid might happen in the silence. some of us must have forgotten how nourishing silence can be. that kind of solitude goes by many names. it may be called “meditation” or “deep relaxation,” “quiet time” or “downtime.” in some circles, it may even be criticized as “daydreaming.” whatever it’s called, it’s a time away from outside stimulation, during which inner turbulence can settle, and we have a chance to become more familiar with ourselves.”
so much to learn in the quiet. so much imagination, exploration. so much searching and so much finding. so much growth, no matter the age.
i’m grateful for the tree that was outside my window. i’m grateful for the tiny woods behind my house. i’m grateful for the beaches of my years. i’m grateful for the river trail and the hush it grants me. i’m grateful for the mountains and the pine forests and stands of quaking aspen, moments by running streams and tiny lakes tucked into the corners of beauty. i’m grateful for the symphony of quiet.
“peace and quiet.
peace, peace, peace.
peace and quiet.
peace, peace, peace.”
(excerpt from mr. rogers’ “peace and quiet”, 1968)