The Music of Silence

“Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music.” ~ Marcel Marceau

I struggle with silence. I write in the pre-dawn hours to classical music, during the day to one of a few dozen playlists. I run to NPR when I need to keep a steady, easy pace, switching over to up-tempo music when the legs are ready to work. I walk to podcasts. I read to music, or worse, to the news. It is so quiet here at night, I can’t sleep without a white noise machine.

But I’m discovering the music of silence.


Autumn brings me to the forest. In the late afternoon, when my eyes have swelled and my brain has shrunk from hours in front of the computer, I take long rambles through the woods. I force myself to go it alone. To listen. It’s scary for me to set out without music or podcast, for it means I have only my thoughts to keep me company.
But there is music in the silence.

The salal and salmonberry rustle as creatures take umbrage at my intrusion. My knees click in complaint, for they’ve already suffered a morning run. My breath puffs and my heartbeat thrums as I plod up a steep slope. The susurration of the tide on the shore far below, the bellow of a foghorn, the whine of a plane propeller, the pneumatic holler of geese and the uneven call and response of my worries and hopes create a symphony of sound.

The quieter I become, the louder the world seems. I have silenced social media, finding the crowded, noisiest rooms are the loneliest. Writing is lonely enough. And filling it with others’ noise means I’m not present on my own page.

Welcoming stillness may just give me a chance to hear the most important thing. And what could that be? Shhh…


10 thoughts on “The Music of Silence

  1. I much prefer the not so silent silva to the murmur of machinery and cacophony of an anonymous crowd, though both offer merit in inspiring colorful sociological and sci-tech conjurings… Thank you for sharing your perspective/ reflections!


  2. Lovely piece. It’s strange when you find something that echos your own thought processes so perfectly, and with such timelinesss. Maybe fall is the time for Mary Oliver, I’ve been reading her a lot lately too. Thanks for this post.


  3. Love Fresh Air. Dinner Party Download has me intrigued. I only listen to NPR when I’m in the car, but I love the idea of tuning into some of their podcasts. If I can figure out how to get them onto my iPhone. I tend to avoid doing anything “new” with my iPhone/iTunes simply because the very newness of it intimidates me, and I really dislike that about myself!


    • I’m tech-challenged, Shana! I just don’t have the patience or interest to figure out most things. And apps bore me to tears. But here’s what I did: found the (free) podcasts I like and uploaded them to iTunes on my Mac. They sync over Wifi to my iPhone, where at some point, a Apple podcast app found it’s way. I think podcasts used to be a part of iTunes on my phone, then Apple created a separate, upgraded Podcast app and helpfully put it on my phone.

      A VERY long-winded way of saying, if I can figure this out, I know you can!


  4. Julie, I was wondering why I hadn’t had email updates from your blog for a while, then I came here a week or so ago and realized your domain had changed.

    I don’t know how you read with the news on. I can do it, but it’s a distraction, and not as enjoyable to me.

    I would never have pegged you for one who struggled with silence.

    What podcasts do you listen to? I’ve never gotten into them, but then I’ve never known quite where to start.


    • Arrghh-I’m frustrated to hear that- the domain change wasn’t supposed to have changed any connections/subscriptions. Thank you for the head’s up-I’ll query WordPress. And I’m so glad you found me again!

      I should clarify- we don’t have TV. My news is the quiet murmur of NPR. I’ll read the paper or do crossword puzzles and listen to the radio. I tell myself my multi-tasking is brain exercise! 🙂

      Yes. I’m struggling with the seclusion. My natural tendency is to be low-key, quiet, alone. But it’s always been balanced by very active, public, engaged day jobs. So it’s time to seek a new balance. Turning down the virtual world and tuning into the real one feels like a good first step.

      Podcasts…Fresh Air, Radio Lab, Moth Radio Hour, Dinner Party Download are a few I plug into. I’m a public radio junkie!


    • Margaret-thank you. I’m struggling with the seclusion, the solitary nature of writing, which surprises me- introvert and homebody that I am. I realized I needed to turn down the volume of the distractions I’ve created to fill the quiet spaces and let in other voices. Real voices.


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