Listen to the Quiet

It’s a Friday afternoon in late summer. I’ve opened the windows and doors, because finally, the air conditioning is not running. To be more accurate, it is not roaring. I’m the biggest fan of air conditioning there is, but I cant stand the noise mine makes. Whenever it shuts off for a while, it’s like a relief from a headache.

I have to turn the sound up on the TV or the radio or my talking book player. I have to shut the door to the family room in order to hear the TV at all, because the AC motor is right outside the family room door. As I age, I find that noise bothers me more and more. I sometimes walk right back out of a restaurant if the noise level is so high that I can tell its going to be impossible to have a conversation with my companion. I hate yelling across the dinner table, and I can’t read lips. High ceilings and bare floors are trendy for some reason, giving the illusion that the place is very popular, but give me low ceilings, carpet on the floor, and cozy booths any day. My world is so filled with sounds that sometimes, I need a little vacation from it all, and I’ve found the perfect place, right in my own back yard.

On this rare summer afternoon, when there is not a single air conditioning running in the neighborhood, I sit out on the patio and drink in the quiet. Today, there are no lawn mowers roaring either. The cloud cover or the smog or whatever is such that the traffic from the freeway is masked as well. Occasionally, a crow’s call splits the air. Once in a while, a cardinal announces his presence. A neighborhood dog barks, but only briefly, as if he knows that nobody cares, so he might as well go back to sleep. Two Canadian geese interrupt my reverie with their unlovely honks, as they wing their way across my back yard, but I find myself smiling at their amusing conversations with each other. Look down there! We saw that dog on the way to the pond, and he’s still in the same place. Should we stop and harass him? How much longer til lunch?

All the while I’m drinking in what at first I thought was silence, I begin to notice subtle sounds that are the backdrop to a quiet summer day. Millions of insects, cicadas or locusts are doing their mating thing. The crickets are doing the old-fashioned kind of tweeting. Later in the day, the Katie-dids will come out to serenade the world. It’s a pleasing sound to me, sitting here in my well-protective screened in porch. It’s so relaxing that I find myself dozing. I think maybe I should do some reading out here, or listen to the newspaper, or do some writing, or make some phone calls. Maybe I should think about what I need at the grocery. Then I remember that I am retired, and I have plenty of time to do all that. It’s high time I take the advice of mental health experts . Sit there. Be in the moment. Just be.

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