Silent night, holy night
What do I love most about living in England? The sonic-nothingness.
I’ve always been sensitive to sound. I’m the girl who asks the waitress to turn down (sometimes turn off) the music in the café. Usually this happens within the first ten minutes of arriving, when I can no longer pay attention to the conversation I’m having with my tea-drinking buddy and start looking around at the other patrons who are all raising their voices to match the volume of the music. It’s at this point, shaking my head in disgust, I’ll ask my friend if they think the music is too loud and usually before they get a chance to answer I will have flagged down the waitress with my request to turn it down.
It came as no surprise, then, that life in Bangkok – with the constant grinding of traffic, hammering of construction sites, and humming of air-conditioning units – sent my audio sensitivity levels into the red.
What I hadn’t expected was that I’d find my sound-heartland here in England – and that it would be more sonically sublime than anything I’ve heard in all of my travels.
I’ve lived in quite a few different parts of the world. Many of them have been very beautiful places – from a seaside apartment in a sleepy beachside suburb on the coast of Australia – to a little cottage in a World Heritage town in the jungle-covered mountains of northern Laos.
What I’ve realised, after a few months of listening to life in the English countryside, is that I’ve always lived in ‘noisy’ places…even when I’ve lived far from big cities.
On the Sunshine Coast there was the steady sound of the ocean pounding the shore, the cicadas with their high-pitch notes at night, the 5am wake-up calls from Kookaburras and 5pm sunset shrieks of Lorikeets feeding on flowering Eucalyptus trees.
In Luang Prabang, there were the mongrel neighbourhood dogs barking at all hours, the constant clucking of giant geckos, as well as the rumbling of thunder and rain during the monsoon.
At night, here in this old chapel house, I hear absolutely nothing. It’s the sweetest silence I have ever experienced.
This lack of noise makes me feel so full of contentment and at the same time so empty. Empty in a good way – like there’s space for my thoughts to dance around without hitting anything – space for my organs to float around effortlessly inside my body – space to re-align, to re-balance – space that used to be filled with a feeling of inner clutter and chaos.
I am currently wearing five layers of clothing when I leave the house and I am not entirely sure how I will deal with my first real Winter after so many years of living in tropical climates, but there’s one thing I know for certain: the silence of this landscape warms my heart like no other place I’ve lived before.