On Silence

By Shirley Serviss, artist in residence.

I live surrounded by sound. This time of year the students are celebrating being back at school with all-the-beer-you-can-drink parties at the fraternity houses next door, down the street, and across the back alley. STARS helicopters hover overhead landing on the hospital roof a block away. Sirens from ambulances, fire trucks and police cars add to the cacophony of the busy streets and avenues nearby. I hear the comings and goings of condo neighbours: voices in the courtyard, doors closing, a child crying, a dog barking.

Here, at The Haven, there is silence. The occasional bellow of a ferry’s horn, drone of a boat or an airplane overhead. I can almost hear Sande’s brushstrokes, her fingers on her computer keys, it is so quiet.

I had forgotten the absence of sound — the sound of silence, as Simon and Garfunkel put it — the strain it puts on your ears as you listen, listen, listen, listen harder, trying to tune into the frequency of something. How, at first, you feel as though you are in a dead zone, before you start to pick up the smaller sounds of nature.

All I can hear are my thoughts, the words in my head. Exactly what a writer needs to hear.

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