The Texture of Silence


The texture of silence


Silence has texture.

You don’t realise how different those textures are until you stop to listen.

There’s the broken glass, bleeding edge texture of the awkward silence that falls in the ringing aftermath of a fight. You can feel the sharp fractured edges as the shattered peace falls to the ground like glass bird-scarers in an old fashioned kitchen garden.

Then there’s the hungry salivating silence of expectation, that bated breath hush, like the dying tones of the dinner gong where only vibrations and eagerness remain.

And finally there’s the silence you find in holy places, where worlds meet and touch and even overlap. You walk in and are struck by the depth of the quiet, self conscious suddenly of the creak of a door or arthritic knees, yet any sound you make rapidly vanishes, absorbed into the deep silence as a stone dropped into an underground lake. The ripples spread out to infinity and are lost, and the silence returns. It has the texture of the finest velvet, rich and soft as forest moss. When you let yourself be still, you can hear the silence over the roar of traffic or the bustle of a busy kitchen, like a kind of celestial white noise.

When you find a place where this sort of silence prevails, cherish it. Hold it in your heart, explore that texture in your mind till you understand that beyond all the sounds of the world, from the discordant roar of aircraft, the inanity of human chatter to the melody of springtime birds and the wind in the wheat, this silence is the song of the spirit that plays on whether we choose to hear it or not.

16 thoughts on “The Texture of Silence

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Texture of Silence « Zen and the art of tightrope walking --

  2. Glad to see you – was worried.

    I love this on silence. It’s the kind of silence after a snowfall and when I wake early in the morning and am the only one up. There lies great comfort in that silence. But not the others. Silences have presence but I hadn’t thought about it as texture. Have you read Poe’s sonnet “Silence” and Rosetti’s “Silent Noon”?


  3. Viv,

    If your retreat from the world of noise inspired this post on the layers of silence, I say it was good for you and your writing.. and for us, your readers.

    Your words remind me of a favorite passage written by Frederick Buechner’s on silence and quiet, which come from his little doubter’s dictionary, “Whistling in the Dark.”

    “An empty room is silent. A room where people are not speaking or moving is quiet. Silence is a given, quiet a gift. Silence is the absence of sound and quiet the stilling of sound. Silence can’t be anything but silent. Quiet chooses to be silent. It holds its breath to listen. It waits and is still.

    ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved.’ Says God through the prophet Isaiah, ‘In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ (Isaiah 30:15) They are all part of each other. We return to our deep strength and to the confidence that lies beneath all our misgivings. The quiet there, the rest, is beyond the reach of the world to destroy. It is how being saved sounds.”

    That last little bit of Buechner’s words remind me of the importance of wrapping ourselves in silence (or quiet), which comes only from retreat — whether in the privacy of our favorite chair at home or some where away for a few days, as you’ve just done.

    Glad you are well and back with us.



  4. I love this post, Viv. Your writing about the silence of sacred places is very evocative, there are often also other sensory experiences that accompany this silence – maybe burning candles or the smell of ancient stones or woodland….Another synchronicity too as I have recently dug out something I wrote on silence a decade ago, thinking to post it soon on my blog. Good to be in touch,
    Karin x


    • I am often one to note the sensory strongly. This piece was actually written in one of the busiest and noisiest coffee shops in Norwich, at the Forum, a grand paino being played only afew yards away, and yet, all i could really hear was the silence of the cell.
      I shall look forward to your post.


  5. Pingback: The Year in Review: highs, lows, triumphs and tragedies of 2011 « Zen and the art of tightrope walking

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