I have just gone through a month of my wife being away for various lengths of time, from a few days to a little over a week. No big deal a lot of you may be saying, some might even see it as a blessing (but I bet would never admit to it ), me well it just resulted in a very quiet home.
Our house has not always been like this and it has only been in the past few months that we have had to get use to a quiet home. It wasn’t always like this, we raised five children and as some of you know that is a very busy time. Teams, practices, birthday parties, picnics, sleep overs, friends over and the myriad of other activities that children do all made our house, how shall I say this, not a quiet place. It was a good noise to have in a home and it became a very familiar, comfortable noise and I admit that at times I would contribute to the noise much to my wife’s chagrin.
We are nearly but not quite empty nesters. Most of the time we have one and a half children home, our youngest full time and our second youngest on a half time basis. Our youngest is travelling overseas and our second youngest has entered the work world with hours that often have him at work until 9:30 pm, past my bedtime. With my wife gone, daughter gone and son working it was often just me and the dog at home for the time after work. The dog doesn’t carry a conversation very well unless I have been into the kick-a-poo joy juice. Then she becomes amazingly intelligent, always knowing just when to listen. The sound of quiet in the house was nearly unbearable even withe the dog.
I remember I use to pray to have a day of silence on the weekend at home when the kids would all be quiet, entertaining themselves in their rooms, no visitors or friends over. (Perhaps you are familiar with the song “Saturday Morning Confusion” by Bobby Russell) Never did I realize that when my prayer was answered I would wish I had never asked for it. I could not fathom a time where silence would not be welcomed.
I taught Outdoor Education for fifteen plus years and during that time took many groups of students into the mountains (surprisingly many for the first time and yes they all returned). One of the activities we always did was called a Seaton Sit. Usually we would do this at the peak or summit of our trip. I would ask the students to find a place to sit where, when they looked straight ahead they could see only things from the natural world, no other students, no highway, no trail, just nature. I would ask them to find one thing in nature that moved, one thing in nature that made a noise and one thing that they would always be able to picture. After about fifteen minutes I would signal them by banging two rocks together or two sticks, a whistle just didn’t seem to fit the occasion. They would come back and I would ask them to share with each other what they observed. Later on they would record this in their journal and at the end of the trip hand it in. It constantly amazed me how much the students valued that quiet down time. It was always in the top two experiences of the trip.
There has been a dramatic change from what I have been use to the past twenty five years. Silence, I could hear my own breathing, the dog breathing, I could hear the furnace cut in and out and I never realized how much noise our house makes on a daily and nightly basis. At first I was surprised at the silence, I didn’t expect it to be so profound, then I became familiar with it, knowing what noise was what, next I felt lonely being the only human in the house and finally I came to accept it. It was like I was going through a grieving process and I needed to get through all those stages before I could move on. Now I use the quiet time to center myself, reflect, plan, explore new thinking and read. The change in the family has brought about a change in me. You could say that I went through my own evolution of the Seaton Sit.
Today’s student seems to be on the go and connected no matter where they are. They never have a chance to decouple from their world and just sit. Those I have talked to almost seem to be afraid to be disconnected from their world. They never have a chance for a Seaton Sit. I wonder what would happen with our youth if we were to give them the opportunity for “The Sound of Silence”?
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