by Grace Booth
Whirl! Whish! Banging and clanging. High screeching sirens. Rap music playing from speeding cars.
Loud sounds penetrated my closed windows as I sat at my desk in the living room, attempting to write at 3 am. Night after night, morning after morning, I would sit and begin to write only to be distracted by the sounds blaring in our subdivision: house alarms, car alarms, ambulances, and police cars all adding to a cacophony. After our second house burglary and break-in, my husband Doug and I felt it was time to escape the hectic world of the city to a more peaceful setting. We contacted a real estate person and the process of making a major move began.
Within a year, we had sold our home on Bullard Ave. in New Orleans East and had relocated to a two-acre property with a three-bedroom home just outside of Picayune, MS. I had just retired from teaching and faced my new environment with great anticipation, hoping to write with publishing as my goal. I sat on the back patio swing and listened. I heard nothing at first. Then, as I strained my ears, I detected the sounds of leaves falling. Fall had arrived and leaves fell in abundance! Pinecones took nose dives from huge trees, hitting the ground with audible gasps. Yes! There were sounds in the country, but the spaces of utter silence hurt my ears. I had to adjust to my new peaceful environment.
Gone were the sounds I had familiarized myself with for so many years. Having worked as a teacher for 26 years, my ears grew accustomed to a compilation of sounds—emphatic, loud, and energized—by young kids constantly moving. Running, tapping, speaking, shouting, bells going off. All kinds of noise had been part of my everyday life. On Sundays, I was accustomed to music being belted out from the 60-voice choir and worship groups, both joining to amplify the sound.
This is what I had been missing all along...
How I wished for a quiet place to think, to write, to contemplate many issues life had presented, and not on a silver platter! Finally, here on our new property, away from busy thoroughfares, I had finally found a place to stop and listen for the vacancy of harsh sounds. Peace was present in my new world. The lack of stress from sirens that represented yet another house or car had been broken into no longer worried me. I had found solace in my present location. I no longer had to awake at 3 am to try to write. I no longer had to get up while family members slept to embrace a bit of quiet (only to find there was none to be had).
I sat on the patio swing and gently pushed myself back and forth, humming internally, thankful for every lack of intrusion from unwanted sound. Nothing and nobody interrupted. I sat and swung for a long time, musing about how different life had become. I wondered how I had endured so many years in the big city with its insistent calls for attention. Children needed attention and they had often cried out to get it. They pushed each other, yelled, screamed, persisting until someone stopped them. Now there was none of that. In this small town, I noticed another lack of sound. Other cars were not honking their horns if I didn’t move a nano-second after the light changed. Teens were not walking down the sidewalk in front of our home with music blazing from their devices. We had no sidewalks! Kids were not constantly at the front door ringing the bell and asking for donations for some school cause.
Life had presented itself as if I had gone back in time, and I was gladly embracing it. This is what I had been missing all along but had not known it was possible to discover—a world of serenity with modest motions of activity. Ah! That’s what I had wanted all along. I had only discovered it with a move outside my old comfort zone, which really had never been comfortable at all.