Silence Fills The Void

Reading time 5 minutes

It’s awfully peaceful outside. You must have noticed? Since Monday there’ve been no bellowing workmen, no reversing delivery lorries, no aeroplanes, no taxis using our lane as a rat run, no catterwauling teenagers on a night out, no gabbling foreign language students, no empty cages being hauled out the back of shops, no trains pulling up at the station and no police sirens. It’s been beautifully, soothingly, achingly silent. Or has it?

Living in the town one becomes conditioned to constant, ugly, unloved noise. Even on the station platform at 5.50am in the morning, as I close my eyes and practice five minutes of meditation, my ears are invaded by the harsh sound of traffic, bottle banks being emptied and shutters rattling open. The pure, shimmering sound of the dawn chorus is polluted by sharp, metallic grinding and simulated trilling. There is no harmony, only dischord. More often than not I stop trying to meditate long before the distant ‘chaulk chaulk’ of my approaching train reverberates along the track.

Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) against a flint wall

I know a lot of people feel deeply uncomfortable and constrained by the current limitations on our daily lives. That is perfectly understandable. It’s so far from normal as to be shocking, and I think many of us are in some state of shock at this moment. Personally I am loving it. And what’s more, on my daily walk to the allotment or along the beach for exercise, I can see that the natural world is a better place for these draconian measures. The skies are clear, I can hear every note the birds are singing, there is no rubbish on the beach, beer bottles aren’t crushed on the road or deposited in gardens and people talk to one another kindly, from a safe distance of course.

A quiet moment on the allotment this week

I get a sense that birds in particular are fast reclaiming the skies, gardens and hedges as human disturbance dwindles. I daresay it will be the same for mammals and insects too. Think how many fewer badgers, foxes and deer will be crushed on our roads, how much more vigorous spring growth might be without pollution in the air and how much less rubbish will get washed into our seas.

As I walk around Broadstairs I wonder if this level of quiet is what our ancestors would have experienced before the car and aeroplane became commonplace. As I write this post I can hear nothing other than my wooden sash window frames expanding in the warmth of the day, doves cooing outside and one of our dogs snoring as it dozes in a sunny patch on the carpet. It’s not eerie at all, it’s decadent. Decadent because I know it won’t last. When we are freed from incarceration my fear is that we’ll go immediately back to our old ways. The space now filled with bees buzzing, doves cooing, leaves rustling and waves lapping will once again be drowned out by clanking, roaring, screaming and bleeping. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if I was wrong, that we used our cars only when necessary, created less rubbish, kept our voices down and let silence fill the void instead? TFG.

Yellow buoy on Stone Bay

Categories: blogging, Musings

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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29 comments On "Silence Fills The Void"

  1. As always, inspirational writing from you………it is too early (and inappropriate) to look for silver linings, but on my fb page l am encouraging friends to sow salad leaves in recycled veg punnets on the windowsill, and am posting a pic each day of something looking good in my Buckinghamshire garden (ipheion “Rolf Fiedler” today); with so many restrictions in force, many may discover the rewards of gardening, for the very first time. Keep up with your eloquent writing!

    1. Thanks Jacki. I too love ipheion. Despite all my efforts to cultivate it deliberately, it still looks better growing wild through gravel in my neighbour’s garden. Ipheion seems to love our soil, or our climate, or both.

      Now you mention vegetable punnets, I have just saved a large black mushroom punnet that I was going to grow something in. Waste not, want not. Salad leaves are an excellent idea. Thank you.

  2. I am not sure that everyone will carry on as before once society opens up again. I think many people have been touched too deeply and affected too strongly, and will take the opportunity to make changes in their lives. The real question is what will our politicians learn, if anythingl In the meantime we just keep going. Thank you

    1. I do hope you are right Candy. I do think the longer this goes on, the more accustomed to living differently we will become. Hopefully walks, playing games as a family, staycations, gardening etc. will be seen as more appealing and better for one’s mental health post Coronavirus. Working in retail we can see how many people are diving straight for the boardgames, jigsaws and crafting materials at this moment. But we’re still selling a lot of technology. Time will tell.

  3. Thankyou for your thought provoking post. I’m fortunate that I live on a farm & the only venicles I hear are tractors & quad bike. It is wonderful to experience nature evolvling in my garden & surrounding countryside. There are many bird varieties to observe as they fly past or seek out nector in a flower.

  4. Thank you for your wonderful post. You are one special person I totally agree with all your comments and you are an inspiration for my gardening.

  5. I remember this kind of quiet briefly after 911. I went camping, and remember the first sound of a plane flying high over head 4 days later. Today, things were very peaceful here, until someone started a logging operation behind my house.

  6. What a lovely post, as many other have commented I couldn’t agree with you more. We moved to the Maidstone countryside about 17 years ago, after living on a busy road it was blissful to suddenly be surrounded by fields, wildlife and most of all beautiful silence! Over the years the South East has got busier and busier, we can now hear a constant hum of the motorway which never dies down, the non stop building of houses in the area has increased traffic tenfold ….and we’re told another 5000 are possibly going up (on said fields) if the council have their way. Pressing this pause button on life reminds me of how things were when we first arrived at our old run down cottage all those years ago and has made me realise just how much busier life has become even for rural communities. It’s a very sad wake up call, if only the weather were better up in the Outer Hebrides I would definitely be signing up for a gentler way of life!

    1. There’s always the Scilly Isles Julie? 😂 Bit remote but no traffic noise there.

      I am slightly despairing of all the building going on and the constant creep of low-grade, featureless housing. I find it all very depressing. Nothing seems to be made properly anymore – it’s all about how cheaply it can be done and how much profit can be made. I am sure this makes you appreciate your older property all the more. Old houses have their faults but they have authenticity.

      Enjoy the pause. Sadly it probably is just that. Dan

  7. I live adjacent to a busy street, near the city high school, walmart is down the street etc…It can be wild here. Right now it is much more quiet than usual. I am thrilled with it. Like you I am afraid that it will just go back to buisiness as usual. I just hope people take away that being kind is how we should be all the time not just in times of crisis. Be well and have a little fun while you are not keeping those train tracks hot.

    1. Oh I am Lisa. I am adapting to my new life a little too easily. Going back to five hours a day on a train is going to be agony. This feels like a holiday. Ultimately I just love to to be at home with my partner and dogs in a house and garden I adore. Mind you, being at home so much really makes you notice all the jobs that need doing!

  8. Your lines remember me the day, when we moved from downtown Budapest to the outskirts. The first few nights I just listened for the silence before sleep. The miss of well used-to noises made me alert.
    (By the way, quarantine is funny with a garden in reach, but 3 kids under 6 stocked up in a flat for weeks is the propper recipe of apocalypse.)

    1. Oh my! Poor you if that’s your situation. I wish I could offer some words of wisdom but childcare is not my speciality! However I think it is the same the world over. A challenging new reality in the short term. You have my sympathy.

      PS love Budapest and Hungarian red wine! Have you ever been to Náncsi Néni? I have been a couple of times and really enjoyed it.

      1. Thank you for your kind words! Fortunately that’s not me (a friend of mine), but I used to live in a hive, so I’m most happy for my little backyard now. Maybe this will be the perfect year to make a square yard garden for my kids, as it seems we need to find all possible fun here
        (I do know Náncsi Néni’s!)

  9. Time seems to have slowed and returned us to another decade long forgotten. Outside there is no sound of cars and the birds are twittering. My next door neighbour is sitting on a bench at her back door. I am looking at the tadpoles in my pond.I feel as if I am in my Grandma’s garden in 1965. Magic.

    1. I agree. I have seen more of where I live in 5 days than I have in 14 years! On the beach every day for a walk, observing all the subtle changes. Examining what’s been washed up. It’s brilliant. I’ll find it very difficult to go back to my old ways! Take care x

  10. Thank you for this beautiful, sensitive post. Like you, I’m appreciating nature and being outside and appreciating the ordinary things of daily life. Please, stay safe in your part of the world.

    1. Yes, we are trying. I have been helping in a supermarket today and John works at the hospital so it is difficult to keep completely away from other people. Hopefully we are fit enough to fight it off if we catch it!

  11. My colleague down south tells me that the sky over Los Angeles is bluer than anyone can remember it ever being. I suspect that the sky over San Jose is the same. From here, I can see that air traffic into San Francisco has diminished. However, there is more activity here than I can ever remember, as so many come out to the forest to avoid others in parks and public places. We all keep our distances when we encounter each other, but it is nice.

    1. There is some debate here about whether it is acceptable to do what you describe – that is, drive somewhere to exercise – but I think provided everyone is sensible it is fine. Enjoy your blue skies and clean air Tony. Such a lovely part of the world deserves them!

      1. Unless there is a forest fire, the air is always clean here. We are on the coast a few miles south of the Santa Clara Valley. I just happen to know how smoggy it gets over there. It is my ancestral homeland.

  12. If only we could keep the quiet, keep the fresh air but I guess by the time we are free to get back to life we will be bursting to go places, see people and get working again. There will be huge pressure to earn money rebuild the economy and live again. In the meantime I am treasuring the peace and quiet and trying to ignore the fear.

  13. My mother, who is quite deaf, lives under a Heathrow flight path. She has noticed that there are very few planes. Here in the countryside we are used to little noise but the sound of tractors continues as usual in the surrounding fields. It is not intrusive, they are working as normal to produce our food.
    I do envy you the beach, the weather has been so gloriously sunny that we would normally have been off to Sandymouth or Westward Ho! like a shot. But we have a lovely place to be, not stuck at home, but safe at home.
    Stay safe and well both of you and we will see how things go when this is over.

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