The power of silence
Recently I was reminded how important silence is to my well-being.
My apartment faces a very busy street in Calgary and there are times when the roar of the traffic is almost deafening.
From early morning to late at night, motorcycles, cars, buses and emergency vehicles race past my window.
I can’t say that I have become immune to this noise but I am getting used to it. When evening comes the traffic does subside and a somewhat relative quiet returns to my neighborhood.
Because of those horrific fires in B.C.
I had to revise my holiday plans, and so instead of a vacation, it became a “stay-cation.” With so many wonderful places to explore right on our doorstep, staying home was hardly an ordeal.
My niece Michelle and I decided to take day trips from the city to places we had not seen for a long time.
The one trip that stands out in my mind is the day we spent on Lake Minnewanka.
The scenery was spectacular. The mountains were a misty blue and the turquoise water shimmered in the sunlight.
Our young tour guide kept us well informed about the history of the people, both native and settlers, who had lived in the area many years ago.
When we arrived at the far end of the lake, he told us that the engines would be shut down and we were asked not to speak but to listen to the quiet that surrounded us.
To me it was magical, and honestly, even emotional. I closed my eyes and let the stillness enrapture me. Yes, enrapture is the right word.
I felt as if nature was giving me a warm and tender hug. It surrounded my body and my mind. There were no sounds at all.
Even the lake was quiet as we gently floated on the blue-green waters.
It was over much too soon and we were on our way back to the pier where new passengers waited for their turn on the lake.
I love thinking back to that day but also to other times when I was completely alone with our natural world, only me and my thoughts.
I spent one winter in Sparwood and when I got home from work, I would take my cat outside for some fresh air.
During one particular day, the snow began to fall in the early afternoon and so when I put my cat down, he sunk almost past his body.
Good thing he was black or I might have lost him.
He loved the snow and began leaping up to catch the big clumps of snowflakes as they lazily floated down.
I stood transfixed by the beauty of it all, feeling the snow land on my face, and then trickle down my cheeks as it melted.
It was utterly quiet, there was no one else around, just me, my cat and the snowflakes.
In front of me was a forest of tall pines, and stoic sentinels that stood guard over the hushed scene.
Their sagging branches were already covered in a heavy blanket of snow as they bent down towards the ground.
On one of my trips to Switzerland, my friend Yvonne took me on a picnic that is seared into my memory.
We found a picnic table with benches, spread out our tablecloth and unloaded our hamper full of the best cheese, bread, cold cuts and wine.
As I looked around me, I was overcome by the beauty of the mountain, the profusion of wildflowers, and the absolute stillness of the valley.
I surprised her by giving her a big hug and then explained how the moment transported me back to the time when I lived there. We sat down and fell quiet for a time, each lost in our memories.
I also remember being in a cave with a group of people, when our guide asked us to be still when he turned the lights off.
He wanted us to experience what being in total darkness was like.
I knew I was not alone, and yet the darkness and the stillness felt as if a warm blanket had wrapped itself around me.
Standing there in the dark was a new and strange sensation for me. I closed my eyes and felt as if my body was swaying and I was concerned that I might lose my balance and fall.
I was not afraid exactly but I was happy when the lights were turned back on.
In this increasingly loud world, it is more and more important for me to be on my own with nature.
It can be a walk in one of our many beautiful parks, going for a long drive into the country, or just putting on earphones and listening to soothing music.
Tuning out the noise and indulging in some silence and solitude, I find, has a restoring effect on me.