Monday, August 09, 2010

And Now the Silent Spot…

Listen my children and you shall hear…nothing. Isn’t it wonderful?

I’m back in New York after a week at my aunt’s farmhouse in the Berkshires and I’m having a hard time adjusting to the urban noise levels.

My aunt and her husband bought their house outside of Northampton, MA when I was a sophomore in high school and I’ve been going up there for years.

Their property is beautiful, secluded, and, most importantly, it’s so quiet you can’t believe your ears.

On most days all you’ll hear is the wind blowing through the trees. No blaring car stereos, no roaring motorcycles, no honking horns, no idiots hog-calling into cell phones or holding “conversations” with the person right next to them that can be heard from three blocks away. It's just quiet.

And at night you have a live star show that makes your troubles seem small and your heart feel huge.

I hadn’t been to the place in about three years now and after the usual bus hell ride out of the Port Authority, I returned to my second home.

I had a flashback on my first day there when I walked to the backyard. I recalled a family gathering we had there shortly after my niece, Victoria, had been born.

It was about 15 years ago and my brother and his wife had come in from California with their new daughter. My parents, my siblings, my aunt and her husband—we were all there to see the newest addition to our family.

It was so strange—I felt like I was actually traveling back in time, visiting with our younger selves.

Now my parents are gone, my aunt is a widow, and there’s a much smaller cast for the latest family gathering.

The beauty of this area is that there is plenty to do—hiking, theater, museums, concerts, independent and foreign movies, shopping.

We saw the play “Art” at the theater in Pittsfield, the Degas-Picasso exhibit at the Clark Museum, the bridge of flowers at Shelburne Falls, and the famous Book Mill in Montague, which proudly offers “books you don’t need at a place you can’t find.”

But you don’t have to do any of that. On a nice day, you can be quite happy just sitting in the backyard and enjoying the sun and the sweet silence.

“We don’t gotta do nothin’,” as my aunt put it on several occasions.

You can also get back to nature—or vice versa. Prior to my arrival, my aunt had a visitor in the form of a rather large bear.

She didn’t actually see him—though she saw one outside her house a few years back—but this fellow did a leave a rather large pile of evidence to let us know he had stopped by.

Bear Facts

He seems fond of a cherry tree on my aunt’s property, so fond in fact, that he bent the thing over so he could load up.

We met up with a woman walking her dog in the area who told us she had an encounter with a bear on a trail near my aunt’s farm.

The woman said she didn’t actually see the animal, but heard him let out a heavy gust of air, which, I’m told, is a very serious warning in bear speak.

“But you know,” the woman added, “they’re a lot more frightened of us than we are of them.”

Oh, I don't know about that. I suspect I would be a little upset if I ran into a bear--so upset I might even leave a large pile of evidence of my own. I’m happy to say this didn't happen, but my aunt said she heard something in the woods while on a walk that sounded decidedly ursine.

But the damn week flew by so quickly. It seems like my aunt was just greeting me at the Northampton bus station and then she was seeing me off. I headed back to my empty house and she went back to hers.

I had another flashback on the way home. The bus went down I-84 and passed through Waterbury, Conn., where I worked for several years and where I was extremely unhappy.

I saw the exit for my old apartment building, the clock tower that marked the spot of my old employer and I prayed, please, Dear God, don’t let this bus break down here. Someone might try and pull me back into my old life.

We kept going, thankfully, and our bus driver, a rather heavy set gentleman named Jerome, joked around as he told us the dos and don’ts of bus travel.

“We have a bathroom on this bus,” he said, “but don’t flush the toilet while you’re sitting on it or otherwise you’ll have to explain to your family why you have a big blue ring around your butt.”

As we arrived at the Port Authority terminal, Jerome warned us about the crackheads who will offer to help people with their luggage.

“You’ll want to be nice and help the crackhead out,” he said, “but trust me, the second you hand over your bag, the crackhead and your luggage will disappear into the five boroughs of New York.”

So now I’m back home. As usual with vacations, I try to clean up my act when I return—catch up on those promises I’ve made to myself.

I’ve got a nice tan and I feel a little less stressed. It's a shame I couldn’t bring any of that silence with me, but at least it’ll be waiting for me the next time I go.


Daniel said...

I'm a New Yorker who moved to Shelburne Falls about twenty years ago. My NY friends always say it's too quiet to sleep when they come to visit here. It usually takes them a few days to adjust to the silence, and the fact that there's often nothing to do except sit back in beauty and just live.

I liked your blog post & I've cross-posted it to
the Shelburne Falls Fan Page on Facebook

Rob K said...

Daniel, thank you so much! I've been coming up there so long that I don't need ANY time to adjust to the silence.

Anonymous said...

I love quiet time on vacation....I have a few pet peeves when I'm not vacationing....cell phones on the train - sorry, but I don't really want to hear about your dental surgery - and the Muzak played when you are on hold on the phone. (I actually got a recording recently apologizing for the lack of recorded music while I was on hold. Too much!)