November 2020 – Last month, Travis and I had the opportunity to “unplug from technology” for several days by staying at my family’s little cabin in the woods in northern California. The cabin is modern enough to provide the comforts of electricity and hot water (thankfully!), but rustic enough that there is neither TV nor internet and, in order to make a cell phone call or send and receive email messages, one must walk about a quarter of a mile down the road and hope that it is not too windy or too cloudy.
Something we did this past trip that I have never done during my whole time going to our cabin (almost 45 years!) was to sit still on my favorite log in the meadow behind our cabin long enough to watch the sunset behind the mountains. It was so fun that we did this not just once but on several occasions! In the past, I had been accustomed to going out to the meadow, but only for a few moments; I would briefly pause and enjoy the amazing beauty that surrounded me, quickly reflecting on the changes that had taken place in my life over the previous year, before hurrying back to the cabin so that I could get in a quick game of horseshoes or a few swings at the whiffle ball before it got too dark and/or I had to go inside to help with the next meal.
The result of pausing? The opportunity to hear a silence that is loud with life!
So often, when we think of or hear the word “silence,” we imagine “a lack of sound or noise,” which is natural, since that is the technical definition of “silence.” However, in being silent (not speaking or moving), Travis and I found that the “noise and constant chatter” in our minds were quieted long enough for our other senses to be awakened. In the silence of the meadow, we:
● Heard the autumn trees gently “clapping their hands” in the late afternoon breeze as the frogs croaked.
● Saw cobwebs drifting across the sky, insects dancing, birds soaring, and the shadow of the mountain gradually bringing about nighttime rest from the fullness of the day’s activities.
● Felt the temperature drop drastically and suddenly, reminiscent of what it was like experiencing the full solar eclipse several years ago.
● Experienced the subtle changes in the scent of the meadow as the fragrance of the dry grasses baking in the afternoon sun transitioned to a sweet earthiness that rose from the soil as twilight set in.
Silence can sometimes lead us to a sense of emptiness and loss because we are so used to being surrounded by noise (both internal and external). Yet, the silence we experienced was far from feeling empty. Rather, in the silence, we were spiritually refreshed and physically rejuvenated as we sat surrounded by the company of God’s creation. Right now, there are many who are experiencing a great sense of “loneliness,” while others are longing for some “alone” time, especially for those whose residences are serving as home + office + school + gym + church + entertainment venue + other.
Whatever your situation, we want to encourage you to pause for some silence and perhaps reflect on the following questions:
● For those who find silence uncomfortable: take some time to observe the richness that can come from silence. What new things do you see, smell, taste, feel, etc.?
● For those who yearn for some silence: consider creating intentional times and spaces for silence. If you are in a crowded home, this may take some negotiation and creativity, but it is well worth the effort!
Karen and Travis Webster