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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss


I’ve written before of the solitude one can experience in the deep forest or at the top of a mountain, both places I’ve been drawn to when I needed a reprieve from the busyness of life. It has been a while since I have been to either. I can recall the sense of peace and calm though it isn’t deeply emotional. Memory doesn’t quite serve. More than anything else what I recall is the sound of the silence.

Of course, it isn’t really silence, not even close to the hush of an empty chapel or the enforced silence of a library reading room. In fact, it is teeming with sound so natural as to recede into a background that is in harmony with every breath. It is early morning as I sit writing this and very quiet, but the background here is man-made sound. The quiet hum of electronic devices, air moving through ducts, and the muted taps of the keys as I type away. These are not sounds conducive to reflection and the silence, such as it is, is wary; waiting for the imminent intrusion of the city that surrounds us.

There are times in our lives when we crave sound; when it is a necessary mask to drown out the dissonance of day-to-day existence. At the gym, my earbuds are a precious saviour rescuing me from the grunts and groans and the banging of weights, the symphony of weightlifting. I can dial in my playlist and I know that six songs will get me through my twenty-five minute row, and the steady beat will help me pace myself through the sets that follow. I forgot them once and the 90 minutes I spend each day torturing myself was almost unendurable. Sound is a useful distraction, but silence is what I crave.

I admit it—silence, or more precisely the silence of the forest is what soothes this soul. Listen carefully and you can pick out the individual sounds; the birdsong, rustles of small creatures scrambling and burrowing, the breeze through the trees and occasionally the sounds of running water—a stream or brook. Unlike city silence, there is no wariness, no sense of impending alarm just the steady heartbeat of nature.

There are some sounds that stand out from time to time, the cry of an Osprey or a night Loon, but these are rare and not intrusive. They are a counterpoint to the silence, a brief interlude that settles back into harmony. And there it is—the magic revealed. It is that harmony that imparts the peacefulness, not the silence. It is the metronome of nature that resonates within and summons the visceral calm, the sympathetic vibration.

When people speak of being close to nature I believe this is what they mean—being in the not so silent silence, merging with the rhythm and the tone, the warp and woof of a world apart from what humankind has made. No doubt that is why I feel closer to the Universe, to my maker, here and nowhere else. Not alone, not at rest, but at peace.

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