Blog Archives

What is Silence?

not, “Quiet!”
not, “Enough already!”
not, “Shut the ____ up!”
These leave a ringing in the ears that deafens.
Dulls the senses.
Obliterates the moment.
Castigates the quiet.
Silence, you are not this.

neither are you
the quiet left by absence,
which shutters the senses.
You ring hollow, mournful, empty.

Silence, you are
pause, waiting, expectation.
My withdrawal to my natural borders,
Leaving space, stillness, invitation.
Into this, silence, you speak.
Can you hear it?

That’s a box to wrap it up in,
so we can wield it, distribute it,
send it:
to our workaholic spouse,
to our new-mom sis,
to our neighbor who doesn’t get it.

Silence doesn’t wrap well.
It stays where it is.
We bring ourselves to it,
sit ourselves before it
and wait.

IMG_1944Interruption doesn’t disturb it.
Offense doesn’t deny it.
Place doesn’t erase it.
Silence goes with us,
when it’s in us.

We can be the Silence.
The pause,
The fresh breath,
The undisturbed air.

We can become the Silence
on purpose.
A break in the action,
to attend to what no one saw coming,
no one heard hovering,
no one knew was near.

Anyone can compel quiet.
We can do Silence.

Sound Cancellation Magic and Mystery

Close your eyes and what do you see?

Pin your nose and what do you smell?

Shut your mouth and what do you taste?

Cover your skin and what do you feel?

Hold your ears and… you still hear what you heard before, just a bit quieter. I can’t shut out sound like I can dim sights, smells, tastes and touches. It just keeps coming despite my best efforts. Which reminds me of the white noise I used to create in my dorm room by turning the dial on my stereo so it was between stations. (Youngsters, see radio here, which actually makes for some fascinating physics reading!)

Oh, how quiet the dorm seems now compared to the world that is hammering at my door and pounding on my ear drums. And it doesn’t come just with volume but with velocity. It has the power to take me down. Literally, to run me out. This is complete irony to me, someone who has to listen so carefully to remember what I hear. I have to turn the dial just so and focus all my attention just there so I can hear, process and remember what you say.

And this tuning in leaves me completely at the mercy of the noise. I’ve turned up the gain, and everything else is louder, too. The shouting, the loud, the angry, the oblivious, the crying, and those who really need someone to listen. By tuning everything out, I don’t hear. I don’t hear them. I don’t hear You. How can I tamp down the background so I can listen carefully, completely? So when the moment for listening comes I will give it my full attention.

photoSuddenly, in have walked sound cancellation head phones. (My husband bought me these, which is a fascinating observation on our marriage – but here, it’s working :)) So, how do those headphones DO that? They cancel the sounds around you so you can hear just what you want to. If you don’t pipe in any music, there are still sounds, but these aren’t distracting. It’s as if the headphones tell your ears, “Don’t pay any attention to that.”

These headphones really are quite amazing. Canceling offending noises without quashing them. They don’t shout down the opponent; they meet his onslaught with an equal and opposite force. Poof. Gone. No muss, no fuss. How magnificent! How mighty. How peaceful. What’s left is selected silence, dialed in. Just like in the dorm room.

Selective silence is what I need. Imagine if I could tune out the world’s noise and focus only on that still small voice. Not exclusively, not forever, not in an offensive or off-putting, superior or segregating, critical or judgmental way. The Lord knows this would, perhaps will, tempt me to aim and fire my Silence!! button at the world according to Wendy.

But what if I could learn to hit the sound cancellation button just as needed? When I need to hear only one sound and one voice. It’s good to know the Tech is available.


This post is dedicated to three women who are listening for medical news right now and I am privileged to hold them up in my listening.

Hearing my name in the silence

I admit I love the sound of the silence when you close the door and no one else is home. (Thank you for this notion from Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth ~ one of my favorite books of all time.)

Today this feels especially so. My young adults have returned from their schooling endeavors and have descended upon the homefront. Having been away last week, I had not gotten the full brunt of the morning whirlwind. Three girls and a husband, each off to a different place, with a Mom-made lunch in hand. I wish I had photos to share (they would not have stood for me taking them) but suffice to say, the attire of each spoke exactly the personality of each and the destination of each. NO words required.

And now there is silence. Even the dogs respect it. But my morning has been turned on its head. No longer the quiet expanse to sip coffee, ponder and write. How spoiled I was. Now I must wait until 9:00 (!) for the silence. I wonder if my “spiritual” brain will extend its timing until then. Until now. God seems to say, “Do you think I only speak blog at 6am?”

Funny. The clutter of doing this morning – the lunch orders, PBJ, ham and cheese, pretzels, popcorn, strawberries, bananas – at first it disarmed me. That, on top of retrieving the dogs and the newspaper from the pouring rain, making the coffee and the rest, had me spinning in circles. No progress at all, it seemed, until I gave up. Figured that a change was in the air and gave in to ‘work’ rather than quiet time in the early morning hours.

And all at once it wasn’t work. It wasn’t even whirl. God reminded me who I was. That the doing itself could be prayer and praise. Reluctantly, I gave in. And…put in a load of laundry.

Then, around 9, came silence. Beautiful. Golden. Lung-filling, brain-activating silence. And I knelt in the place I do when humility before God is especially in order. And God thought into my inner ear,

“Time spent well is not time lost.”

And I pictured the sticks and debris that held back the waters begin to release. Slowly, evenly, one by one, they entered into the downstream flow. Buoyant and bobbing happily. Orderly.

How often I want to impose the order. That it should be ‘just so’ before I release it. God reminds me that He has a perfect order in mind which things will assume naturally when we free them to float. After all, the truth is meant to set us free. As Madeleine L’Engle says, “Free to run across the lake when we are called.”

Do I have the faith for that? No way. But if that was what was between me and my Lord, if He called “Wendy, run across the lake to me,” surely I would because He would bolster my faith for a run such as that.

What if that was everyday? If everyday I listened in the silence or the noise for my name to be called and at that moment, whatever waters stood between me and the will of God were stilled so I could walk across them.

Surely I would run.

%d bloggers like this: