Tag Archives: silence

Enjoying traveling in silence

St. Augustine FL

St. Augustine, FL is a favorite destination for us.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I like to travel. We’re not world travelers by any stretch of the imagination. Mostly we embark on both long and short ventures to visit friends, explore new places, and revisit old haunts.

Given today’s complexity and expense of flying, road trips are our favorite. That means Neva and I spend lots of time together in our vehicle.

Our peers, other retired couples, do the same of course. Most report that they use the road time to chat with one another, plan future activities, and discuss ongoing world events. Not us.

When we travel by motor vehicle, Neva and I have a solemn, implicit pact. We seldom talk. It’s been that way almost from day one of our marriage. I suppose it’s just a habit that we quickly fell into. But we have made it work for us.

From my experience, most folks seem uncomfortable with silence. Neva and I take it in stride, each using the quiet time in different ways. Neva reads, stitches, does word puzzles, or plays games on her iPad. Me? As I drive, I observe, think, and plan. I know that sounds a bit boring, but I find the quiet time refreshing.

We can be spontaneous, though. We don’t necessarily travel from point A to point B. We like to stop if we see something that catches our eye. That’s especially true for me. I’ve even been known to turn around just to photograph a lovely landscape scene or an attractive old building or an eagle snacking in an open field.

WV farm, cornshed

This farmstead in West Virginia is typical of the scenes I stop to photograph.

When we can, we drive the old surface routes, avoiding expressways and interstate highways, especially if we don’t have to be somewhere at a given time. Doing so makes life so much more interesting for us.

We also traveled with our son and daughter when they were young. That was before cell phones, iPads, iPods, and in-vehicle entertainment centers. We would have the typical family verbal interactions. But on long trips, Neva always had individual activities for the kids to fill the road time.

Those trips weren’t as peaceful as the ones we take now by ourselves. No one would have expected them to be, but our son and daughter weren’t rowdy either.

As we’re driving, every now and then I’ll think of something I meant to ask Neva but forgot. I seem to do that more and more these days. So I’ll ask on the go. She does the same with me. That question may lead to further discussion and a resolution to a dangling participle in our lives. Without long stretches of silence, that unresolved issue might not have even been discussed.

I also find sustained silence helpful in flushing out touchy topics I have avoided for fear of disagreement. After all these years together, we know that it’s better to lay all the cards on the table than secretly hold them to fester. Perhaps a moving vehicle keeps conversations progressing, too.

The happy couple

In my younger years, I was a bit uncomfortable with silence when others were around. I tended to fill the space with words like I loved to hear myself talk. I didn’t. Experience has taught me that listening can be more valuable than speaking.

For Neva and me, sustained silence has strengthened our relationship. It’s a nonverbal equalizer where neither dominates, and we both can participate as we choose. In our specific case, it’s been an essential part of our wedding covenant for 47 years and counting.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under family, human interest, nature photography, photography, travel, writing

All quiet on the home front

quietsunrisebybrucestambaugh

A spectacular sunrise on the “quiet” morning.

By Bruce Stambaugh

We live in a frazzled world, full of hustle and bustle and lots of noise. Even in the country, the noise of a busy world drowns out the normal peace and quiet.

Of course there are people that seem to prefer noise. They’re the ones that can’t stand a natural lull in a conversation, or dead silence in a room full of people, so they feel obliged to fill the air with idle chitchat. They’re happy as long as someone is talking, even if it’s them.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a bit long winded at times myself. But having lived in rural America all these years, I’ll take peace and quiet every time.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I enjoy music, though I’m no musician. I enjoy cheering for my favorite sports teams. I enjoy lively table talk, especially around a meal.

But age has a way of shushing you, quietly encouraging you to embrace the silence. I’ve learned to feel comfortable in absolute quietness, whether I’m home alone or with a congregation of contemplators.

quietbarnbybrucestambaugh

The normally bustling barn was even quiet.

Silence is good. I was reminded of that recently. Since it was a Sunday morning, the traffic on our busy county highway was minimal. In fact, only one car and one horse and buggy passed me on my regular two-mile stroll.

Normally I dodge construction trucks, straight bed trucks, semis, cars, bicycles, and several horse and buggies. This day was astonishingly different.

Less traffic meant less noise. And less noise meant the few sounds that I did hear really, really stood out. I heard a motorcycle accelerating far off in the distance, and a horse clopping on the county road a half-mile from where I was walking.

It was at that point that I stopped and realized the full breadth and depth of the stillness around me. The compressor from the neighbor’s barn wasn’t running. No cows were mooing. Not even a bird so much as chirped.

For a minute I thought the rapture had come, and I figured I had indeed been left behind. I smiled at the idea, and continued my lonely, but not lonesome walk.

quietstreambybrucestambaugh

A quiet stream.

Walking affords me more than physical exercise. It clears my mind, fills my body with bountiful goodness, and sharpens my senses. Even my age-diminished hearing seemed more keen. I could hear crickets and the last of the season’s katydids singing in the tree-lined stream that meandered through the crops and pasturelands.

On the return trip home, I fully embraced the quietness. I felt richer, fuller, and more alive, all because of hearing nothing at all. I was reminded of the importance of listening, of paying attention, of appreciating the good earth of which we have been assigned to nurture.

Our world is filled with too much noise. Televisions and radios blast away with the talking heads, stirring up people when life’s recipe says to let the sauce simmer.

Even from my countryside home, I see too many people with cell phones pressed to their ears while driving their cars, or cords from ear buds leading to a denim pocket of a passing biker.

That Sunday morning walk instilled in me just how important a little quietness is in our clamorous world. That silent experience said stillness is more than golden. It is a priceless pearl to the soul.

I’m glad I’ve come to appreciate the quality and value of silence. Please kindly remind me of that next time I start to ramble.

quietschoolbybrucestambaugh

The Amish schoolhouse stood quiet in the morning light.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Filed under Amish, Ohio, photography, weather, writing

August is the quiet month

August sunset by Bruce Stambaugh

A typical August susnet in Ohio's Amish country.


By Bruce Stambaugh

I have always thought of August as a transitional month, the days between busy, boisterous July and the revitalizing September.

August is the stepping-stone from summer’s onslaught of activities into a pre-fall mentality. Vacations wind down for most people. It’s back to school and back to work.

If we take time to halt our busyness, our clamor to re-ready ourselves for the new school year at hand, we can take note of this calendar bridge from tilling to harvest, from clamor to order. In its intermediary mode, August seems to quietly take it in stride.

The songbirds no longer need to announce their territory or impress their mate. The young have flown the coop, or more properly stated, the nest, and bird life has returned to seeking daily subsistence. The American Robin precisely models the point.

From April to July, the Robins paired off, warbled their luxurious choruses almost continuously sunup to sundown. They pecked on windows, noisily flitted off their nests when disturbed and faithfully fed their young.

The Robins were ubiquitous in both presence and song. People often comment when they see their first Robin of the spring.

First Robin by Bruce Stambaugh

People often remark when they spot their first Robin of the spring.

Now, in late August, the Robins have all slyly retreated to their preferred nomenclature. They are more than content to while away the day searching for food deep in the recesses of the shade and forest.

Think about it. When was the last time you either heard or saw a robin? They simply and silently slipped away unnoticed.

If they haven’t already, other bird species will soon be disappearing from the area altogether. The Purple Martins, Barn Swallows and Common Nighthawks all heed their interior instinctive urgings and vanish unseen much like the Robin. We under-appreciate their massive consumption of insect protein until it’s too late to thank them.

Just as quietly, the multiple greens of fields and pastures have grown taller, richer. Chameleon-like, they have morphed into emeralds, tans and russets with hardly a rustle.

August harvest colors by Bruce Stambaugh

The colors of August change from day to day.


Farmers have taken in their wheat and most of their oats matter-of-factly, and now tolerantly wait the drying of the later cash crops, corn and soybeans. There is no mechanized clanking in patience.

Song Sparrow by Bruce Stambaugh

A Song Sparrow sings away.

The Song Sparrow still belts out an occasional composition, but nothing as regular as it had been earlier in the season. The House Wrens, once so noisy they approached annoyance, have taken to the underbrush, giving their last brood endurance lessons.

August’s atmosphere also has been quieter than the previous months, save for a couple of late night thunderstorms. The brilliant flashes and deep, rolling booms shattered my sleep like Civil War cannon fire might have. Midnight imaginations run wild when deafeningly jolted.

The few sounds of August we can count on are more monotonous and so commonplace we may not even notice their calls. Cicadas and crickets signal day and night. With windows thrown open to catch the unusual August twilight coolness, the insect symphony has helped humans settle in for sound sleeping.

Every now and then a ranging coyote howls from atop the neighbor’s pastured hill, if for no other reason than to drive the tethered neighborhood canines crazy. The feral call is one thing. The domesticated is another.

Now that school years in most locales begin well ahead of September, the playful echoes of children rollicking at recess again fill the air. It’s a timbre I love to hear over and over again, even if it does break August’s amazing silent spell.
Amish school by Bruce Stambaugh

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