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August Silence

While on vacation in Vermont a few weeks ago, my family and I decided that we really wanted to see a moose. So off we go to the Northeast Kingdom. Located just south of Canada and just West of New Hampshire, "Moose Loop" was an area we had never before explored - and a 3 1/2 hour drive from our cottage on Bomoseen.

We drove north to Burlington and stopped for lunch. "It's so quiet" my daughter commented. She seemed a bit uneasy, and we all noted how the restaurants and shops, busy as they were with summer tourists, had a much softer hum of voices and music. We even walked past a relatively quiet construction site - which we all laughed about - how do they do it?! Then back to the car, and -northward ho!

Vermont's mountainous scenery outside the windows, radio and headphones on, some of us napped as trees and fields became more frequent, and houses and towns fewer and farther between.

Just south of the Canadian border, we stopped at a wildlife preserve to stretch our legs and increase our moose sighting possibilities on foot. You could see the cool green of the dense surrounding foliage; you could feel the slight humidity with a breath of coolness underneath, you could smell that sweet sharp freshness that only a pine forest has; but you couldn’t hear a sound - and the silence hit like a velvet wrapped hammer.

It was so quiet you could feel it with your skin. It was strange, it was reverent, it was like being on another planet, and I wanted to be a part of that silence.

Which was easier said than done! The sound of our footsteps, no matter how carefully placed, was intrusive. My son and I tried to walk on the mossy sides of the path. My husband tried to walk heel to toe. The slightest noise took all of your attention. We’d stop to listen to a small sound of a bird or a breeze, and you could feel the silence seeping into you. It was so calming to me..I could have stayed for a very long time…

My daughter had another reaction to this silence - she fought it. As we began to hike she became agitated with this muggy, buggy walk. She mumbled to herself, griped loudly, and stomped on the path the way only a grumpy teen can. She couldn’t wait to be back in the car with her earbuds in - listening to something (can you feel the eye rolling?).

Vermonters are known for their reticence… and now I think I get it. When you have perfect silence like that.. what would be worth interrupting it?

Down in more populated, busy, areas - we tend push out silence. We cover it up with our comments, jokes, or arguments. We seem to enjoy the sound of our own voices and to fear silence..maybe because we think it represents what is not there… lost.

This fall will be a bit more silent in our house, as my son goes off to college. No late night cello concerts, or piano pieces being practiced over and over when you are trying to read the paper. No siblings bickering over whose turn it is to do the dishes. Just more quiet.

About an hour into our long trip back to the cottage from our "Unsuccessful Moose hunt", my daughter took out her ear buds and joined us in a game of 20 questions... something we hadn't done for a while. As it got later, and my son took over the driving, the rest of us were lulled by the late hour and the sound of the road. In the quiet car, I enjoyed focusing on the sounds of soft breathing and quietly hummed classical music. Definitely worth the trip.

Here's a link to some scientific thoughts on the importance of silence - enjoy!

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