I would like a quiet day. Just one. One quiet day without the residue of yesterday or headwinds of tomorrow. A quiet one during which I could just let the river run past and feel the cool and heat of the sand and the sounds of gulls or osprey and, of course, waves; when I define quiet, I include birds and waves. I would like one of those days where I’m not waiting for someone or when I’m not anticipating appointments or deadlines. A day where the phone doesn’t ring, or when it does it is simply family, ready with a joke or an old story to get us all laughing and remembering and planning. Usually quiet days include laughter and stories.
A day to myself like I used to do when I lived in Pennsylvania and drove into Manhattan and walked from Herald Square all the way up and through part of the park, talking to the vendors or checking out the music along the way coming from the cafes and radios. When I explain “quiet day” I must include the sounds of the city as natural and as organic as the osprey and waves at home since they are expected.
My life is not unlike Thoreau’s in that my retreat is near the water in the woods where I am able to regroup, not to ignore civilization as much as be better prepared to face it. So I would like one day. One. One quiet day where I could live deliberately and be in absolute touch with the passing of time solely for the sake of the passing of time, to not watch the seconds, to not count the minutes. I could lean against a tree and hear the combine on the neighbor’s farm or the rigging on the boats on the river. There is a thin, very thin, line between quiet and the sound of rigging in the early morning hours. A good quiet day for me often includes the sound of rigging on a mast.
I was thinking the other day about the quiet days in college when a bunch of us would walk into town just to get something to drink and everyone would be talking at once and laughing at once at different things, and we were always like that and we were always going to be like that. I loved that sweet and passive activity during a time in life of seemingly permanent transience. If I am going to define “quiet days,” I can’t leave off my friends all talking and laughing at once.
I have had many days which I would “formally” call quiet by the Oxford definition. In Spain on the Camino silence was most welcome, and at home on the river when it is early, or late. When I was young and hiked through Heckscher State Park, my friend Eddie and I would either sing or be absolutely quiet, like we both knew nothing would last and we needed to absorb every moment. Sometimes when I am alone at home I fiddle around the house, working out on the property or on the porch, and can go from sunrise to sunset without a sound and it can be delightfully deafening. But those are literal, and I have come to understand that true peace is not the absence of noise but rather the presence of love. It can’t truly be a quiet day without the presence of love, not if we know that “quiet” is also a state of mind.
I want the peace that comes from sitting in an Italian restaurant in a run-down strip mall, eating bread and drinking a bottle of wine and talking for hours with an old friend, and we finished each other’s sentences and we finished the wine. I miss the quiet of a stroll through a busy mall with my dad, stopping to rest, talking about nothing at all. I look forward to the type of quiet that comes from sitting on a bench at the boardwalk and listening to the mixing of music and pounding surf and kids playing in the sand. What peace there is; what quiet is there. A fine, quiet day should include absolute mindfulness so that what was, no matter how long ago, and what will be, no matter how allusive, remain irrelevant to the laughter of a friend who understands.
That kind of quiet. Peace of mind quiet. Trust quiet. Understanding quiet.
I would like more quiet days like that.