Have you ever just sat alone and listened to the world around you? Even in the middle of the night, when everyone is asleep and we think it’s perfectly quiet, it’s not. The house makes little noises as it settles, beams expanding or contracting with the changing temperature, creaking and snapping. Outside tree limbs brush against the house as the wind tosses them, not always so gently. There could be the distant rumble of an approaching storm, or the forlorn wail of a train whistle.
On an early spring evening I can hear the peeper frogs singing in our garden as they look to attract a mate. Come summer, there’s the deep-throated croak of a toad and the chirps of crickets rubbing their legs together in the long grass along the neighboring woods. I can even hear the trucks passing by town on the highway. A heavier footfall in the woods leaves me to wonder, is that a deer, or a bear? I know there are bears in our woods and they like to wander into the neighborhood to raid bird feeders and garbage cans.
These night time sounds can be restful, like the patter of rain on the sky lights of our bedroom and on the leaves of the trees outside. Or, they can be scary, particularly if I’ve spent the evening before watching horror movies. But I tell myself, I am no longer a pretty young co-ed, and I would never dream of investigating a noise in the basement while wearing only my underwear, so I’m probably safe. (For the same reason I’d change from my red uniform shirt to my yellow if Captain Kirk ever asked me to beam down to the planet surface with the away team.) At worst, the noise I think I hear within the house is a mouse and it will soon find its way onto one of the sticky traps set out for that very purpose.
Solitude recharges our batteries. If you concentrate on each little sound and not let the worries of the day intrude, you will feel your heart rate slow, your muscles relax. And if you’re a writer, you might even be able to hear your character’s voice telling you the answer to the plot problem that’s been troubling you all day.
Listen to the silence.