Day 9 of Blogging 101 asked us to expound upon a comment we left on a blog on day 8; during which I’d commented on a post by Karen from Up the Country Lane; she wrote about the sounds of her country silence. In response, I wrote that I wasn’t sure what I would do with that depth of quiet and that although I have days when I long for a deep abiding silence and stillness I’m not sure I would ever be able to get used to that level of silence after a lifetime of the cacophony of sirens, incoming planes, and the traffic of city and suburban life. She wrote, even in the deep silence of the country there is noise, fluorescent lights, the hum of the fridge, and noisy Blue Jays manage to break the quiet calm of the bucolic hamlet. (I actually kind of love my backyard Blue Jays, but they are definitely the noisiest of the backyard bunch.)
I was ruminating on these thoughts when I remembered how silent the city is when heavy snow is falling. I lived my first 24 years of life in a house on the flight path to Philadelphia International Airport; the 3am plane flying so low the shelves in my bedroom shook. But whenever really big snowstorms closed the airport entirely and cleared the streets of traffic there was a fantastic silence; allowing the distant far off sounds of traffic lights changing color, train whistles from the 25th Street bridge, and the whirring of plane engines warming up to filter in to our consciousness. Now, I’m not a big fan of run of the mill snowstorms (talk to me when I’ve had to shovel 4-5 inches of snow off of the driveway), but there’s something poetic about big snowstorms bringing a whole city to a complete stop. It’s a peace and quiet calm that only those who’ve lived in places like Philadelphia understand.
But yet, as I sit here reminiscing about the quiet calm of Philadelphia during big snowstorms I can’t discount or overlook the truth that in the days following 9/11 I longed for the comfort of the familiar din of the constantly overhead planes and helicopters that provide the soundtrack of my daily life, it was eerie and uncomfortable without them. When I pray for peace, and silence, and stillness I forget to give the comfort of familiar sounds their due weight. It’s 6am and the helicopter is landing at the hospital across the street, the air conditioning just clicked on, the refrigerator is running, in the distance a dog is barking, and in an hour my cat will be meowing for her breakfast; I can hear the traffic from the main road getting started for the day. On most days I don’t even notice these sounds, they are my white noise and surprisingly my comfort; they are the sounds of my daily life and more beautiful and comforting than I understood before reading and ruminating on Karen’s own ruminations about her country silence.