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by Lesley McClurg

Surprisingly, the silence around me doesn’t feel lonely or empty.  The frenetic thoughts of my mind are quieted by the stillness here in Waterfall Cottage at Hedgebrook. I don’t feel my usual urge to fill space with sound.

Often the first thing I do when I come home to my apartment near downtown Seattle is cut through the emptiness by turning on the radio. I struggle to relax when my apartment is quiet because the stillness feels oppressive. A creepy loneliness settles over me when I sit and eat without the radio playing. Music or podcasts are my imaginary dinner guest.

Yet, here in the woods where nature offers only the subtlest noises, I don’t feel alone. Minutes pass without any distraction at all. The sounds that do exist are comforting. The crackling snap in the fireplace, or gentle flick of a branch against the window draw me into nature’s finer rhythms.

Why is sitting alone in the middle of the woods less detaching than sitting in the middle of a large metropolis? Cities are filled with blaring horns, screeching cars, squad cars in pursuit and a wide range of other clatters. Is turning on my radio a way of pushing out the urban roar, or drawing it in?

When I’m in the city I hunger for deeper connection. There are units above and below me. There are people talking and lives unfolding on all sides of me. But, when I sit alone in my apartment surrounded by so many other people, strangely those sounds are dividing. Its almost like that sensation you have when you’re at a party full of people appearing to have a good time, but you feel strangely alone. You know that even if someone was standing next to you, the conversation would be strained. My empty apartment can feel similarly isolating.

Maybe my desire for quiet now is related to my more frequent desire to turn up the volume. Both actions could be rooted  in a yearning to align with one’s environment. That’s one way to spin it. Or, more likely my inability to sit quietly in the city is rooted in a constant craving for distraction and entertainment. Regardless of the deeper psychological cause, this morning’s peace is just the right remedy  for my mind’s incessant buzz. This space gently nudges me towards a creative current that’s often drowned out by a busy urban existence. I think they call that your muse. If only it was easier to turn up its volume.




Lesley McClurg
About Lesley McClurg

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