Rain splats against the window. Familiar, predictable. Dogs bark in the valley and the sound echoes between the hills. Normal. Water begins to boil in the pot and we imagine air bubbles rising to the surface to accompany the sound. Ordinary.
Most of us are familiar with everyday sounds, yet there are those spaces between sounds that can be disturbing. At night, sometimes I’m awakened with the cry of an animal. I suspect that a predator has claimed its prey. But what I find myself struggling with is the space between the cries. I hope that I’m simply dreaming and that the silence is just the peaceful space of the night. But I wait—and listen. Within a few seconds, I hear the cry again. This time it is a little farther away and more muffled. Living in the country has given me a close up, personal view to the balance of nature. But still . . . that space of quiet haunts me.
A friend’s husband was in the hospital and she was panic-stricken with grief. He wasn’t doing well. She teared up a little, then looked away, leaving a space of silence that was heavy and full of emotion. She turned back to me and offered a slight smile. “We’ll just keep hoping,” she nodded to herself. Again, I’m haunted by that space of quiet that she created.
A couple we know had a terrible argument and they both said things they certainly didn’t mean and wish they hadn’t said or could take back. But as each one recounted the story of their conflict, I noticed that after the telling of the incident, they each fell silent. In those moments, are we searching for words to describe that which defies description, or is the space vacant, sadly silent? Sometimes, nothing but empty quiet remains of a story. Falling into silence, with nothing left to say, we drift into the evocative space between the words—where important secrets sometimes hide.
In a world filled with noise that imposes itself on our days, the most difficult to hear and interpret can be the silence between and among the sounds. It seems that in that space, in those few seconds of quiet, pain and grief often linger without our conscious awareness. Meaning can be revealed in the silence between our words whether it be the overwhelming joy of love or the incredible sadness of loss. In that void where we find ourselves without words, we must listen very closely. Is it a momentary disruption in the love we share, or is it the disturbing sound of goodbye?