With all of the noise we are surrounded by every day, I have been thinking about quiet places. They seem hard to come by in metropolitan areas, but when I look hard enough, I can’t occasionally find them. I feel as if I should start a collection of them, listing them out carefully so that I don’t lose them, and have access to them when I feel the need for quiet.
There are some basic requirements I have for quiet places. The first is that they have to be naturally quiet. I’m not talking about places where you can pop on your noise-cancelling headset and listen to quiet. A quiet place shouldn’t have to be artificially enhanced. The best quiet places are natural quiet.
Second, a quiet place does not have to be silent. Silence is the complete absence of sound. Quiet, on the other hand, is when only soft, natural sounds intrude on an otherwise peaceful environment. The sound of winds through trees or the rustling of leaves is quiet in my books. The low whir of a ceiling fan is quiet. The distant sound of a baseball game on the radio, pleasant though that is, is not quiet, nor is the rumble of distant traffic. Birds singing at first light is not particularly quiet, while the occasional bird song in the middle of the day is quiet.
Third, a quiet place acts as a natural deterrent to intrusion. It is a place where, if you are spotted by someone else sharing the space, they will be unlikely to intrude on your quiet.
With these requirements in mind, I have started a list of quiet places. It is a short list at the moment, but I am hoping to grow it over time.
- An empty church. This is an excellent quiet place. I discovered this last week when we arrived at our church an hour before the kids’ Christmas pageant in order to get front-row seats. There was only two other people in the church when we arrived. It was quiet, and very close to silent. Not long after we arrived, someone began to play the piano, getting warmed up for the pageant, but in those first few minutes, I thought how nice the quiet was. The noise grew exponentially louder as more people arrived.
- A cemetery. Cemeteries seem almost ideal for quiet places. There are often benches scattered throughout the cemetery and I almost never see anyone sitting on them. I suspect cemeteries creep out a lot of people, but if you are looking for a quiet place, you can’t get much better than a cemetery. Not all cemeteries are equally quiet. The bigger ones are often near a busy road, and nothing destroys quiet as quickly as traffic noise. Old cemeteries built with stone wall, with large trees growing among the scattered headstones are much better suited to quiet, although these often lack benches.
- Libraries. Libraries have a pleasant quiet about them, but there is often a hushed murmur that ripples through them at times, a kind of constant background noise, not unlike the hum of a ceiling fan. I sometimes fantasize that the ideal quiet place is a library after it closes. I used to imagine getting locked in the library overnight, and the utter quiet of the place, and the delight at roaming the stacks of books, knowing that I could choose any one I wanted, and find a comfortable couch and read uninterrupted until clink of keys in the door the following morning.
My collection is meager, as you can see. Some places that seem like they should be quiet often are not. Parks seems like good quiet places, but too often unwanted sounds intrude. Our back deck is occasionally a good quiet place, at just the right time in the early morning or late evening, but only when the wind is rough and the sounds of it through the trees masks the low rumble of traffic from a few blocks away.
Our house, despite its many good qualities, is not a particularly quiet place. The kids are often running around. A TV is often on somewhere. It seems that the dishwasher is running when the house is otherwise quiet, or that the washing machine or dryer are humming along. If I want a real quiet place, I have to rely on the deck, or one of the places I’ve listed above.
As it happens, the place where I am writing this is unusually quiet. Or it was, until the Little Man asked Siri to play some music that I now hear thumping away on the other side of the house.