Sunday, December 27, 2009

Listening to winter quiet

I returned from a pre-dawn walk through three inches of new powder, breathless from the exertion, warm in spite of frigid temperatures, the sound of snow crunching with every step.  The snowplows hadn't passed yet, so the snow was clean and fresh. Christmas lights left on all night twinkled in the untrampled crystals. This was as pretty as a winter morning gets.

Reluctant to bring my morning journey to an end, I stopped outside our door. The crunch under my shoes echoed, then faded. My breathing calmed. The air settled around me, and I listened. Nothing. I heard nothing. There can be nothing so quiet as a winter morning under a snowy blanket. Even the sound of a passing car is muted. Dawn would not break for a few minutes and I soaked in this deep silence.

Seldom do we experience complete silence. Radios, TVs, traffic, phones, lawn mowers, the furnace blowing, the dishwasher cycling, devices of all sorts plugged into our ears. We are wired with sound. And even when everything external is turned off, it's hard to escape the internal noise  - a remembered tense conversation, a project gone off track, a looming deadline, the mounting 'to do' list, a calendar teeming with meetings - all clamoring for mental space. When can we ever just be quiet?

Winter night is so different than summer evenings when crickets and frogs and cicadas fill the dark with their cacophony. When wind ruffles leaves. When windows and doors are flung open and everyone's sounds fill the night air.

This morning, in spite of a temperature that hovered in the teens, the quiet invited me to stay outside to revel in clean, pure, sweet, quiet. Then to wait and wonder when something would break the silence of the black and white morning.

Finally it came, the clear call of a cardinal.  I looked around, following the sound. There he was, a tiny dot of blood red on a distant limb. Not long after, a junco flitted by. The birds do not sing in the winter as they do during the summer when the competition is on to attract mates, but just as surely, the birds are here, giving voice to the morning.

As the sun rose, so did the birds. Blue jays. Crows. Gold finches turned winter gray. Their calls brought life to the winter morning. Following the lead of the birds, getting busy with the day, I grabbed the snow shovel and went to work clearing the sidewalk.

Those few minutes of pure quiet calmed my mind, refreshed my body, raised my spirits. Pure quiet. What a gift.

1 comment:

  1. This was beautiful. I loved the line about "even the sound of a passing car is muted" I don't do early mornings but I experienced this same muted sound recently while walking the streets of downtown Galena and it took me back to being a little girl. Some things just never change and that is one of them Maybe I was time warping because of where I was. I didn't grow up here but Galena is often referred to as the town that time forgot. It is visual poetry in any season but it is magical and timeless during a snowfall.
    We are spending another weekend up here and although it isn't snowing I woke up to the sight of snow frosted trees and I thought to myself that a lot of people would think this view was oppressing and bleak but I only saw it as breathtaking. Now ask me again in a month and I might tell you a different story :)