Standing on a mate’s balcony the other night, having an illicit cigarette, I was struck by the silence in the city. It was freezing cold, biting. A few lights on in neighbouring flats showed signs of life but not a peep escaped to the outside world. Such silence in a city the size of Budapest is rare, and in its rarity all the more wonderful.
One friend told a story about meeting a chap in Hong Kong who loved Simon and Garfunkel but couldn’t quite get to grips with their song, the Sound of Silence. So much got lost in that particular translation: the poor chap didn’t get how silence, by definition noiseless, could have a sound.
I recalled the loudest silence I’d ever heard. It was in Alaska. Out on Prince William Sound. In a boat. Not another human around for miles. Just me and my skipper, the inimitable JS. It was one of those beautiful, long Alaska evenings where if you looked closely enough at the skies you could see heaven. The sound of that particular silence is forever etched in my brain and it’s the place I go in my head when I want to get away from it all.
Another place I go is to the forest in Gödöllő. A natural fence of trees envelopes the house in a silence that is almost surreal. Double doors leading out to the balcony provide a perfect vantage point from which to watch what few leaves remaining on the trees fall quietly to the ground. There’s something godlike in this simplicity. The air is cold and still. The sky grey. The evergreens provide a lushness that is unusual this time of year. And all around there is silence. The only noise I hear is the ticking of a clock and the sound of keys clacking on the keyboard.
My programme (can’t you tell I’ve been in Hungary for a while 🙂 ) for the next couple of weeks is filling up. Lunches, dinners, drinks, parties, catching up with old friends all part of the agenda. It’ll be a busy one and short of snow descending on Ireland and bringing the nation to a standstill, all should go ahead as planned.
But before it all kicks off, I’m grateful that I get to experience some quiet, to hear the silence, to revel in its restorative powers. For that I am truly thankful.