07 Mar 2017

Silence on Nantucket

Mother Theresa once said, “See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” There is something about the ability to be still…to tune out every voice, distraction and “noisemaker” in our very loud world…that is not just soothing, but necessary for our human psyche to have peace. Silence makes it easier to find clarity, offer forgiveness, breathe deeply and recharge our tired bodies. We need it not only to touch other souls; we truly need it to touch our own soul.
In the current 24/7 news feed that has overwhelmed our society, it’s very hard to find opportunities and places for silence. Worse, the seduction of our electronic devices means we have to make a conscious decision to “sign off” – literally – from the thousands of voices that threaten to influence, distract and in most cases, depress us. It’s shocking how many people we now encounter everyday wearing headphones…on the sidewalk or bike path, on the ferry, bus or train and even in the workplace. We now need “noise” to block out surrounding noise so we can focus. Here’s a newsflash – it’s still noise!
If Mother Theresa had been given the opportunity to visit Nantucket during February school vacation week, she likely would have quipped, “now this is what I’m talking about!” For an island that is busting at her seams and overwhelmed with noisy activity in August, it’s shocking (and endearing to those of us who get to live it) to experience the stark contradiction during this quiet week in February. With hundreds of local families departed for the ski slopes of Vermont, Caribbean beaches or sunny Florida, those of us left behind get an opportunity to experience the Grey Lady on her best behavior.
My husband and I, with Coco the dog in tow, went for a 5 mile walk last weekend. Our journey took us through the hidden sandy roads near Bartlett’s Farm, behind Miacomet Golf Course and finally out to Ladies Beach. Not once in well over an hour did we see another living soul, nor did we hear one car or plane. I’m a person of many words, but to my husband’s secret delight, even I was compelled to embrace the silence and let the island speak for us. The waves gently brushed the shore with a “whoosh,” a seagull laughed overhead and at one point we stopped to listen to the symphony being played out by the rustling reed grass along the path. We returned home not only energized, but relaxed and a bit awe inspired.
Before Miss Springtime throws her arms wide open and invites in the hustle bustle of island activity, there’s still time to embrace the solitude and sanctuary of winter days on Nantucket. Spend a long weekend or a few weeks taking long walks on the secret paths in Miacomet, ride a bicycle through Polpis, into sleepy Sconset and all the way back to the rotary where there currently is no wait time! In the words of Paul Simon, come enjoy “the sound of silence.”
Shellie Dunlap
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