He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words. ~Elbert Hubbard
I often define my friendships by conversations. Past jokes, heated debates and the stories act as landmarks along my living timeline. I converse to connect with others and to mutually share internal thoughts. But what about the moments in between speech? What about the silence?
My friend Juliane and I arrived late Saturday afternoon at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary just off Route 5 in Easthampton, MA. Despite the beautiful weather, it was too far to walk so I drove with the sunroof open, arms dangling in the warm breeze. Our day, until that point, had been stimulating: an estate sale, lunch at the delicious vegetarian-friendly Green Bean and shopping downtown at FACES for new sunglasses and a bed spread. I believe it was the way a Saturday should be spent, free of any responsibilities but the enjoyment of tag sales, sunshine and the closeness of a friend. A stroll through nature seemed like the logical next step. Quite literally.
I parked the car and we ventured off, the crunch of gravel giving way to the muffled paw paw of the earth beneath our sneakers. Particles of dust floated through beams of golden light as the path led us away from the parking lot and into the trees. Our conversation slowed and tapered off, lost in the softness of young pine needles and patches of shy green ferns. Silence crept into the space between our bodies and our thoughts. We walked on.
I don’t remember how long we walked or who eventually broke the silence. Eventually, the cadence of our voices rejoined as we reemerged into the sunlit field. I was struck by the natural quality of our silence–void of panic or fear to fill the space with meaninglessness. We had walked together but our thoughts had moved independently, weaving in and out of conscious thought creation. We were worlds apart and an arm’s length away.
I wish the same for you and your friends going into the future. The silence might appear suddenly–at the dinner table or in the moments before a goodbye. Do not be so quick to fill this space, it is not empty but full of depth, mystery and internal questioning. Define your friendships in the things unsaid just as you define those moments in the things that are.
As close in the silence as in speech.
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…. We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~Mother Teresa