I am reading about Silence and the lack of it in our world. I am reading about how much we need it but we might not be aware of this need. I am growing aware that the lack of silence and peace in my life is taking its toll on my creative abilities. My schedule is jam packed. There is school, there are friends, there is the organizing and to-ing and fro-ing of Trooper and Princess’ lives; there is the Pantomime and all the fun that entails. There are the far away friends that I like to email, skype or facebook, there is my photography that has been shoved to a rather tatty backseat, there is 3limes which I feel has been rather neglected of late. There is the reading, that which is prescribed by being an IB English teacher and that which I simply want to read. I am longing to snatch Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” out of Handsome Husband’s hands, I am addicted to the wonderful literary journal Granta and have been for 18 years, but now I am 6 editions behind. There are films that I hear about but never see, there is the FT and Globe and Mail that I read religiously each Saturday morning. There are the blogs that I like to read but find I can barely get to. There are my favourite photographers that I like to follow on Flickr. There are websites to follow, texts to answer, emails to reply to, letters to write, photos to take, marking to do, essays to read, research to do, ideas to form, meals to cook, friends to make, friends to meet, photographs to take, photos to process, favorite shows to watch…
And yet there is no time for Silence. The moment to simply switch it all off and just pause and let those creative juices flow. Reflection. Peace. Quiet.
Who would ever have thought that we would need to carve out time just to be quiet.?
It is never silent here. If it is not the hum of the air conditioner then it is the birds, or the frogs, or someone’s lawn mower, or the thunder or rain or car horn. Even the beach is never silent, far from it.
When we first arrived I was always awoken by the same birds, gorgeous and yellow that makes up for their ugly cry. Now I am immune to their call until later in the day. As I shower I can hear the phone ring next door and some early cars driving to school.
At school I have the constant chatter of children, screams of joy and play from the play ground, clatter of dropped food and whoops of laughter in the cafeteria. In my class, the clicks of pens or the nervous twitch of a knee bouncing against the desk makes a beat. Sometimes the buzz of an ipod or the irritating beep of a missed call interrupts the near silence of a test. Students who fidget and play with staples, bangles, erasers and papers think they are quiet while the chatty ones do all the talking. Then there are those who talk in class, whispering as if I cannot see or hear them.
As I am walking home I hear the barking of dogs, the clanging of electric gates and the yells of friends calling from one car to another. Birds on wires and trees protest between themselves and often a radio playing loud soca fights to compete. Later on as I walk my dog at sunset I will hear the thump of tennis balls beside the high pitched bleep of tiny frogs. Women walking the neighbourhood gossip and boys on bikes yell. At home, TV, music and a phone call all fight, higher and higher to be heard above the din of cooking sounds. My daughters shout over who gets the shower first and my husband and dog wrestle on the floor while I sit listening to the frogs above all else. Even once the house begins to sleep I can still hear the dish washer, the air conditioner and the music from a car driving past.
That is when I miss the silence of the snow. Standing alone in a thick wood, the noise of the road and the houses outcast by the padded snow. Silence so true that it fills your ears with the sound of nothing.
Montreal is supposed to get its first snow storm tonight. At about 2 am everything will suddenly appear to stop as a thick silence falls upon the city.
In the morning if you are lucky and open the door before the monster snow clearing truck passes you’ll be greeted by a white carpet strewn street, branches tipped with the weight of snow, cars shrouded in white, a low white sky. All will be quiet and quite beautiful. Once the monster truck passes and disturbs the peace the scene will be transformed into one of messy black and white chaos. Cars will have 5 feet of snow pressed against their sides making it near impossible to dig out, the once pristine road will now be rough and brown, all soft feathered snow pushed angrily to the side. People will open doors and crossly stomp towards their cars, shovels brandished at their sides. Children will stiffly walk down stairs so tightly squeezed into boots, gloves and hats that they look like petrified mummies.
I hate the cold. I hate winter. I love snow.
I spent 13 years scraping, digging and shoveling my self out of the snow. There is nothing quite as long or disheartening as a cold winter city. A Montreal winter lasts 5 months. Once a year, maybe twice if we were lucky we got a chance to go away for a few days to the country where the snow was white and soft and very very clean. Best of all the place was absolutely silent. There is no silence in the world like a place blanketed in thick snow. Trees dip mournfully to the ground bearing the weight of weeks of snow and since no monster trucks ever pass by, the snow piles up window ledge high.
On those weekends we fall in love with winter all over again. We lie on our backs laughing and tossing snow into the air and we ski or toboggan or skate. Normally the children don’t come inside unless they are very hungry. They even play in the dark. We warm up by the fire place and sip tea until the tea turns to wine. We eat huge meals and play toasty scrabble. We stuff hot water bottles into the foot of our beds and listen to the silence as we fall asleep.
These are the winter memories I pull together but I know that unless we move to the Canadian country side that bucolic version of winter will ring false. It is waking up an hour early to shovel and braving the steep city hills slippery with snow that would prove my reality. I would rarely go outside and sit in my house grumpy and anxious for the hell of winter to pass.
Time to go to the beach.