If you are of a certain vintage, and especially if you have frequented small musical venues in New England which tend to occupy stone or clapboard churches in seacoast towns, you may hear “hush, hush” in Aimee Mann’s voice. I mean it in a far less ethereal and poetic way.
There have been gaping interruptions in my writing here, and among my photographs and indeed everything else in my life, because for the first time I have had to refrain from writing about an event central to my day-to-day life for well over a year now, and I have found it nearly impossible to write my way around it in these cyber-pages.
I am going to find a way. Complete silence has never been for me, and a good hush is only initially hard to find.
I find myself holding my breath and hoping no human noise intrudes when I catch a glimpse of a butterfly or moth flickering through a lattice of leaves, or see a fledging cardinal or mourning dove’s black eyes peeking out from under a bush while considering whether to attempt to take flight. I do not want to frighten them. Only in surrounding silence, bereft of traffic and chattering sidewalk runners, do I hear the approach behind me of skittish downtown deer, or catch the swishing of a coyote in the distance, camouflaged by sand and seagrass at a nearby Wildlife Refuge.
I feel the serene hush as music is about to commence, and of its wordless initial notes. Yo-Yo Ma as he sits, eyes closed, about to play. My mind gifts me with the silence before Thaxted, from Jupiter, The Planets Suite, the one hymn I knew absolutely had to be played at my husband’s service. I could not have spoken afterwards had it not unlocked a new path to him when he was just four days’ and also forever not here.
I remember the more and less soothing spaces among words spoken by people no longer in my presence and no longer here. I still hear the way my husband’s quick mind would instantly produce a clever pun or bit of wordplay, and in the silences of every day I hear his soothing voice as he measured every serious word with such uncanny honesty and clarity. My father’s lengthening pauses as Parkinson’s robbed him gradually, but never even close to completely, of the brilliance of his theoretical physicist’s grasp of the silent unseen and he began perseverating about the concrete noises intruding within the room to which he became limited. My mother’s voice before a pandemic infection made it so tentative and sparse as she retreated into her own patches of silent memory, and we could only hope she found more peace there.
Two weeks ago, on another wedding anniversary as the spouse remaining in this world, I had the joy of being able to see both our best woman and best man. I was reminded that I not only hear their voices in my quiet world when they are not with me, but I can recreate conversations with them over decades and find much comfort and laughter there. I can even still hear their parents’ and siblings’ voices, and transport myself back to the less aching portions of growing up and of adult life which are forever leavened by true, enduring friendship.
There is also a variety of noiselessness that overwhelms all our senses. I have felt it when frozen in time, in shock just from the power of the words which preceded it (“This is your tumor….”). I have, more than once, sat dazed in a busy, noisy hospital cafeteria and heard absolutely nothing around me as indeterminate static filled my head.
But whenever I have been able to, I have taken in sublime views in the profound silence that lets me commune not only with quiet creatures and the anthropomorphic clouds in which I sometimes spot them, but with the beloved ghosts who accompany me everywhere.
9 thoughts on “Hush, Hush”
Good to see a post from you Stephanie.
Good of you to come back!
Thanks for sharing Steph! It comforts me to think that Ben and Jim, our beloved ghosts, are somewhere together indulging in wordplay while they share a cold one and watch over us.
I love that image. Much ❤️ to you.
In a nearly inaudible whisper, practically begging for subtitles so as not to disturb the silence, “Welcome back.” As people of faith, my wife and I have been practicing silence. It is something relatively new for us. I believe that it must be easier to practice playing a contrabassoon with a blindfold while wearing mittens. Even a few moments in silence reminds me of just how vast the soul must be. Light years of suffering, delight, loss, unfettered laughter, grief, confusion… life… death… literally to infinity and beyond. I am learning to be grateful for silence, and will continue to put on my mittens. Who knows… I might play a song some day.
Thank you! This wonderful comment….and the image of that contrabassoon….made me think of an Avett Brothers song about all the places love and faith lie, including the songs sung in church and the unspoken thoughts. I think I’ve been treating the silence as a negative, and going hand-in-mitten with so much isolation, but after writing here again about it I was graced with honest-to-goodness sleep and a dream about walking together with my husband again, in conversation and in silence as we took in the view.
Honest-to-goodness sleep + a sweet dream. Sounds like a silent win!
There is a powerful beauty in silence. Your thoughts convey, share your experience so very poignantly with us in “Hush, Hush.” I similarly appreciate these same moments you describe, especially, “I feel the serene hush as music is about to commence, and of its wordless initial notes” and imagine Yo-Yo Ma just before his bow moves. ❤️
Be well. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Greg, and I hope you and all are well, too.