Sunbeams  September 2014 | issue 465

The oaks and the pines, and their brethren of the wood, have seen so many suns rise and set, so many seasons come and go, and so many generations pass into silence, that we may well wonder what the “story of the trees” would be to us if they had tongues to tell it, or we ears fine enough to understand.

Charles R. Skinner

Reality is a sound, you have to tune in to it not just keep yelling.

Anne Carson

Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end.

Barbara Kingsolver

Who knows? perhaps the same / bird echoed through both of us / yesterday, separate, in the evening . . . 

Rainer Maria Rilke

A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world. 

Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.

Aldo Leopold

Samuel finally understood the sound of the wind after all these years: the winds were a chorus of the prairie’s ever-present heartaches.

Andrew Galasetti

Noise is relative to the silence preceding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap.

Alan Moore

The computer, the noise of the computer, feels like impatience. It’s sort of the sound of impatience to me.

Tony Kushner

The world is noisy and messy. You need to deal with the noise and uncertainty.

Daphne Koller

What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder if everyone’s hearts would start to beat at the same time, like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time. . . . That would be so weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn’t have had time to match up their heartbeats yet. And at the finish line at the end of the New York City Marathon it would sound like war.

Jonathan Safran Foer

Sometimes I wait at the bottom of those dark stairs . . . and listen to the sounds my wife and children make as they sleep, the sounds our animals make as they step carefully through our dreams and out the other side to polished floor and cold window. Sometimes I wait so long I become unsure if I am asleep, or awake, or dead.

Steve Rasnic Tem

Perhaps this quiet yet unquiet waiting is the harbinger of grace, or perhaps it is grace itself.

Franz Kafka, as quoted by Gustav Janouch

God is silent. Now if only man would shut up.

Woody Allen

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn?” she inquired. “Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause in a roomful of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re all alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful, if you listen carefully.”

Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

The world’s continual breathing is what we hear and call silence.

Clarice Lispector

The silence of the forest is my bride and the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love, and out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world. 

Thomas Merton