This week I find myself in rural North Carolina, lending a hand to a sick family member. I’m staying at the house my grandparents bought and rehabbed in the early ‘80s.
I spent a good deal of time here when I was a kid. Multiple weeks at a time during summer break. Of course I’ve been here throughout the years as an adult, but I have to admit it’s been awhile. And I honestly can’t remember when I was here without the husband and/or kid.
So it’s just me. And my thoughts.
If you are unfamiliar with rural, eastern North Carolina, let me paint a picture: many pine trees, very flat and lots of fields, unpredictable weather.
It is winter by the way. But it was so warm and humid this afternoon, I was just waiting for a mosquito bite. Meanwhile, back home in Baltimore my guys are just getting over the 30” of snow we got week before last.
However, I might wake up tomorrow and it will be below freezing here. You never know. Welcome to the lower mid-Atlantic/eastern seaboard, folks!
As I went to sleep last night, it occurred to me how much I disliked being here as a child. It was boring. It was hot. There were lots of bugs. They only got 3 TV channels.
But more than anything, it was QUIET.
Like so quiet it makes a roar in your head. If you live in a city and have never experienced this kind of quiet, my description might not make sense. Even when you think it’s quiet in your world, you are probably still hearing the “white noise” of population.
Of course there are sounds here. Even in the winter there are peepy, squeaky animal and bird sounds. (I can’t quite decide if I’m hearing crickets or peepers at the moment.) There are all the disturbing clunks and groans the old house makes. There is the Doppler effect of an occasional car coming down the road.
But otherwise, it is really, REALLY quiet. Startlingly quiet. Close to sensory deprivation quiet. In fact when there is a sound, it kinda scares the bejeezus out of you.
That is exactly what made me anxious as a child. There is something comforting about the white noise of suburbia where I grew up and it simply doesn’t exist here, unless you artificially make it. So I always stayed plugged into my Sony Walkman 24/7 and plunked away at my grandmother’s old piano every chance I got and chattered endlessly to keep the quiet away.
Fast forward 30-odd years.
I find myself in rural North Carolina. No husband and child. No urgent work or projects due. Just the occasional phone call. And a little conversation with my “patient.”
Which means lots of time to breathe. And to move at a slower pace. And I realize the quiet is no longer scary. No longer a source of anxiety. In fact it’s truly a blessing.
My morning meditation took place to the sound of uninterrupted rainfall. No buses or cars barreling through puddles.
My afternoon work took place to the hum of my laptop fan. No eardrum shattering blatty-blat-blat of an obnoxious motorcycle or screams of a fire truck.
My dinner was eaten to the sound of my silverware clinking against the plate. No local news chopper overhead or animated conversations of people on the sidewalk outside.
It’s obviously very different here than it is at my house. So I’m relishing this quiet while I can.
Because this is the kind of quiet you could learn to take for granted.