The Sound of Silence

Edith here. Sheila can’t be with us today, so I’m reposting a lovely blog she wrote two years ago.

by Sheila Connolly

Just back from a trip to West Cork in Ireland, where (in case you haven’t heard it seventeen times already) I own a small cottage, on a small plot of land. From anywhere on my quarter-acre property I can see a total of four houses, and one of those is a mile away. The ruined church up the hill where several generations of my ancestors married is almost exactly a mile, and I can see it out the back.

Coming back to “civilization” is hard after spending over two weeks in Ireland. The first thing you notice out in the country in Ireland is the absence of noise. It is quiet in my part of West Cork. By my rough estimate, based on agricultural reports, there are 542,000 people in County Cork, and 1,719,500 cattle. The cows don’t make noise at night. Most people don’t go gadding about at night because they’re exhausted from tending all those cattle.

Traffic past my cottage amounts to one or two vehicles per hour, including deliveries, milk and oil trucks, and school buses, as well as individual cars. There are no planes flying overhead. There are birds, of course, and when they squabble (most often various kinds of crows), their caws echo off the trees.

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The peace is lovely. You can feel your blood pressure dropping day by day.

Then there’s the darkness. Across the road in front of my cottage, at night I can’t see a single light anywhere. Turn off the interior lights during the dark of the moon and you can’t see your hand in front of your face. In contrast, during a full moon it seems almost as bright as day, although the light shifts across the sky faster. In winter you’re lucky to have eight hours of sun, dawn to dusk; in summer it’s more than sixteen hours. Those of us who live in suburban places have forgotten those rhythms.

Silence and darkness seem to go together, It begins to make sense, why Simon and Garfunkel began their song, The Sound of Silence, with “hello darkness, my old friend.” Maybe they were depressed young men when they sang that, but that’s not true in Ireland. People have long memories, often stretching back generations. At the same time there’s a real curiosity about newcomers. Who are you? Where do you come from? And often, do you have people here? Their memory for recent events proves it: people I might have met once, a year or more earlier, remember my name and where I’m staying in Ireland. In some ways that’s unsettling, because it’s hard to be anonymous.

I’m not going to argue whether the silence of the countryside or the noise of civilization is better. I enjoy the energy of cities, at least in small doses. I’d seize the opportunity to visit a city I’ve never seen (especially if there’s a group of writers there!). But sometimes I need quiet, and a slower pace, as do most of us, I’m guessing. Would I go stir-crazy if I stayed in Ireland for good? I really can’t say, but it bears thinking about.

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There’s another quotation that keeps running through my head, and it fits too: “The World Is Too Much with Us,” a sonnet by William Wordsworth written in 1802. In it Wordsworth criticizes the world of the First Industrial Revolution for being absorbed in materialism and distancing itself from nature. It’s all the more true these days, and living pretty close to nature for the past couple of weeks has been eye-opening for me.

Readers: How about you? Does fresh air, sunlight and quiet drive you crazy? Or do you crave a dose of tranquility?

15 Thoughts

  1. Thanks for the repost. I missed this one the first time around, and am so grateful for the chance to read it now. It’s absolutely lovely. As a lifelong farm gal, I love the tranquility of the countryside. Sheila’s Irish cottage sounds like heaven.

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  2. Living where it is quiet and dark has its advantages at times, and I don’t like living in big cities (I’ve done both), but I now live on the outskirts of a medium sized city. It’s mostly quiet at night and there are a minimum of street lights (sometimes really not enough) so I get to hear loads of birds (and not just crows!) and insects. And I’m near necessary services when needed. I think I’ve found the perfect medium.

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  3. I am reading Murder At The Mansion by Sheila Connolly at the moment and enjoying it tremendously. There are so many situations in the book that run close to home at the moment so I am loving all the situations in it. I would love to have a chat with her about those very things…the history, the preservation, the renewals of a town’s history as an attraction. And I know she must have seen the same episode of History Detectives that I did!

    Tranquility is renewing every now and then but I stay extremely busy and can’t imagine more than a day or two of quiet at a time! Delicious as reading and writing time but activity keeps my blood flowing!

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  4. Love the peace and quiet of country living. I’ll take the sound of the critters over the honking of horns any day.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  5. I might like it for short time but I’ve always lived on a busy street with lots of traffic noise. When my mother was young, she went to stay with relatives in the country, and her parents had to come and get her. She couldn’t take the quiet! LOL

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  6. Quiet and the country, please! We are currently living in a rural area 35 miles east of Fort Myers. We’ve put our house on the market to return to the Crown of Maine where we have a house and 165 acres of woods (and 8 hours of sun in the winter and 16 in the summer – we must be at the same latitude). I crave the quiet and peace.

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  7. I enjoy the sunlight and the quietness. I love to outside on our porch swing in our backyard and just listen to the birds singing, it is very relaxing.

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