Peace & Quiet

Growing up, from what I recall, wasn't that loud. Living in a tightly run ship even kept my impulsive and energetic brother from getting too noisy. I remember taking care of the neighborhood kids and getting overwhelmed when they'd run and screech through every room of the house, unrestrained by vocal range or discipline. Most of my childhood was spent with my nose tucked squarely into a book, which is a solitary and silent activity. Even my father, when he wasn't reading or out of town, would watch professional golf on television at a tone barely audible in the next room. The gentle squish of a golf club before it pops against the ball, the whispers of the commentators just before the golfer swings, all on a lazy Sunday afternoon still sounds like heaven to me.

Many of my summers were spent outside. Most often, I was down in the Northern Neck with my grandparents, Pop Pop and Nanny, at their retirement home (The Depot) entertaining myself in the rural solitude. Pop Pop bought a paddle boat that I could easily pull into the water from the gravel-lined ramp, and I'd often paddle out to a point in the tributary where I couldn't see The Depot, let alone the pier that jutted out thirty or so feet from its ample acreage. Sometimes I would pack a snack and a book, and I'd let the gentle waves rock me while I bit into crisp fresh apples and flipped the pages of a book I'd probably read four to five times already. The only noise you could hear for miles was the croak of a frog, the melodic symphony of crickets or the smack of my chubby hand on my thigh when a mosquito decided to attack.

When I wasn't at The Depot, I was laying in the fluffy grass in my backyard counting clouds. Or I was at sleep-away camp mucking horse stalls and talking to my equine friends...laying with my fellow campers on our sleeping bags trying to count every star in the universe. Reflecting on my life to this point can be examined in moments when I allowed myself to exist in the world rather than marking my interactions with it. Whether I was sitting at a campfire with friends, silent save for the snap-crack of flames and dehydrated wood, or at the highest of high points on a snowy mountain, alone and walking through a blizzard, my peace is most often derived from quiet.

I've never been a person that derived my energy from solitude, though. These moments were not moments in which I felt alone, or even introverted. To this day, I walk steadily along the line of outgoing and subdued. I look forward to summer because the warm, breezy nights and days allow me to recall those moments when I communed with mosquitoes and crickets, leaves and grass, sky and earth. The sound of nothing but pastoral peace and quiet is the most leveling and blissful experience I can provide myself. It's difficult to find these nooks and crannies of hush in the white noise of the suburbs or the shouts and screeches of people and vehicles in a big city, but you can if you try. And if you are blessed enough to have access to the great wide outdoors, for a weekend or for a lifetime, I urge you to soak it up.

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.