We are always aware of the silence when visitors depart but in the normal course of daily events it goes unnoticed. Visitors make us aware that perhaps we are not quite normal. Everyone expresses surprise that we don’t eat breakfast together. I am more surprised that people even want to eat and start conversing at that time of the morning. Certainly I enjoy going out for breakfast – but at 1030 or 11 am. Have it double up as lunch. Being an early riser I have the benefit of even more time to myself, in the silence of my thoughts.
In Australia there is no such thing as silence with the clicking of the geckos, the hum of the cicadas, the ribbit of the frogs, the chirping of the birds and the rustle of the breeze in the trees. Aside from the wildlife and natural noises our house is full of its own sounds, the constant drone from the fish tank pumps, the plop of the air bubble exploding on the surface of the water which in turns sends out ripples which splash on hitting the side of the aquarium. Then there is the fridge cutting in and out as the motor operates to keep the inside temperature at its ideal and the cuckoo clock. When I take the dog for his last walk around 10pm and the street is in darkness and, apart from the creatures of the night,the silence is absolute I can hear our cuckoo clock up and down our entire block. I wonder how much the neighbours must hate us for breaking the silence or whether like us they simply don’t hear it.
All these sounds are white noise to us. Our normal backdrop. Silence is the absence of human voice whether it be from the radio, television or sitting opposite you at the table. Everyday we have this silence, unless we have visitors.
In Vanuatu, in our house, we thought we had absolute silence. There were no tweety birds, no traffic, no Australian wildlife. Any birds or wildlife on the island had been eaten and were now rarely seen and less frequently heard. We enjoyed our silence, as silence in Australia can be deafening, until one day a guest told us that they couldn’t sleep for the noise. “What noise?”
“The sound of the sea breaking on the coral reef is so loud” was his response “I’m used to the traffic and the noise of the city but this constant crash just drove me mad.”
We did have an Australian style silence on the farm when we returned to Australia but perhaps a bit too much silence. Most days everyday. Radio National became our company and we listened to it frequently. Unfortunately we often had power outages and periods of total silence. We grew to feel that we could be the last people on the planet and we wouldn’t know it. The silence forced our move when I started work in a town seventy-five kilometres distinct and left my husband to suffer the silence alone.
There was no silence at the shop and we looked forward to our move to our house by the river to gain some solitude. We had no neighbours at our town house as we had an empty house beside us and then a park. Never again will we live on a river near a park as voices will interrupt your silence at unexpected moments, cutting like a knife through the air. It unnerved us to such an extent that we packed our bags and moved to acreage outside town. That was silent as is living here behind our wall. Until we have visitors.
When visitors come they fall into one of two categories. Those that talk a lot, incessantly almost. These people are usually folk who are naturally talkers but live alone and once with an audience cannot stop chattering. For me that is exhausting as my husband and I only talk when we have something to say, usually sit in different rooms for breakfast, silent as we read newspapers and books, peruse the computer, write, do our own chores and even our first dog walk is often done in silence, both of us lost in our own thoughts. It is a companionable silence and we are both comfortable with it.
The other type of visitor we get is the self-sufficient visitor who takes themselves off and doesn’t expect us to entertain them 24 hours a day. Even this type of visitor however still wants to share all meals with us. Dinner is always fun. Lunch too can be good but breakfast. My husband disappears. He has his time alone hidden in his cocoon of silence whilst I have to smile, converse and become increasingly angry with him, jealous of his quiet time and annoyed that he doesn’t suffer as well.
Don’t get me wrong. We love having visitors and welcome them with open arms, but a change to my morning routine is a sufferance and I dream of the return to it as silence truly is golden.