The Sounds Of A Silent Retreat

In beauty, culture, life, religion, travel on July 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm
National Register of Historic Places listings ...

The Hudson River, which we overlook...Image via Wikipedia

The humming of fans

Kids’ shouting and laughter from the nearby park

The gurgle/splash of tea/coffee filling a mug

A bullfrog at the pond



The scrape of a chair against the floor

Gunfire — target practice across the river at West Point?


Wind in the trees

A lawnmower

The scrape of the greenhouse door against the slate doorstep

The thunk of a softball landing in my mitt (What is the sound of one glove snapping?)

The beep-beep-beep of a delivery truck

Someone tapping stone

The ribbit-ribbit-ribbit of frogs in the dark

An occasional airplane

The shushing of a riverside waterfall on the opposite bank

The flapping of flip-flops

The sweetie’s breathing in the  bed next to me

The rustle of foliage as a bad bunny eats the garden’s lettuce

The echoing horn of a freight train on the opposite shore

The commuter train thundering up and down the valley

The buzzing of motor boats on the Hudson River below

The whine of mosquitoes


Bees buzzing in the lavender beds

The pealing of the hand bell used to signal prayers, meditations, teachings and meals

The clinking of cutlery against china at mealtime

The whoosh of the dishwasher’s hose

The ringing of the gong to start meditation

The clicking of mala beads

Om Mane Padme Hung and other Buddhist chants

  1. This is what Simon and Garfunkel meant when they sang about the sounds of silence.

  2. Oh the things we hear when we take the time to listen! This is a beautiful soundscape. Like a mosaic. Fills me with a desire to take such a retreat.

    • It’s a really interesting experience to subtract the constant noise — and it often IS noise — of conversation. I will miss this silence when I go back to the “real world.” !

  3. I always appreciate those moments when the power goes out or you are in the middle of a lake in the middle of nowhere. Their is always this instant of almost painful shock when your ears rest from the constant drone of technology, followed by a serenade of sounds that we miss because we do not take the time to listen.

    Beautiful soundscape.

  4. Thanks!

    It has made me even more frustrated at how noisy (and it’s not that noisy) my suburban apartment balcony is — the Tappan Zee’s constant drone of traffic and too many low-flying aircraft all the bloody time.

    We stayed on a friend’s ranch in NM where the silence was so profound I could hear myself digesting.

  5. This is such a beautiful list that it reads like poetry. I love doing this sometimes – just sitting at the keyboard or with a notebook and listening, taking in what’s around me, making up stories about what I hear…

  6. Beautifully described. This may sound horribly “far out” but I am at this moment designing some silk scarfs (stripe based) and I put a colour to each of your sounds and I have to say I have a lovely collection of greens interjected by silver-greys – calm. I finished one yesterday based on some rocks from Brittany but this one will have to have a Hudson reference. Great post, thank I sound pretentious but I am really not, I just love getting sparks of inspiration from unusual sources.

    • Wow. Pretentious, hell no! What a lovely and cool compliment! I’m a big fan of Brittany (had one of the best meals of my life there, in Concarneau) and am always fascinated by inter-disciplinary cross-fertilization (now THAT sounds pretentious!)

      Please share some pics here when the scarves are finished?

  7. Thank you Caitlin for the sounds, the feel, and the silence. That’s the kind of poem I scotchtape to a cabinet door

    • Tom, thanks! You would so love the light and colors here…We have breakfast at 7:45 and the light, as we enter the dining hall, strikes a jar of garden flowers at the door with spectacular brilliance at just that moment. Hell of a way to start the day!

  8. It “sounds” fabulous.

  9. That’s the beauty of the well written word. You experienced it and wrote it. I’m sitting in my room, reading it and experiencing it as well, even as I listen to my kids playing in the other room.
    Thanks for the drop of peace tonight. Hope you enjoy the rest of your time there.

  10. Thank you! Such a lovely compliment!

    We are home now and feeling tired, sad, a little lost after the incredible intensity of it all. It is so strange to talk freely again. 🙂

  11. what a beautiful and heartfelt post 🙂

  12. […] discover she’s missing after I read some beautifully crafted posts on Broadside Blog, Madame Paradox, and Counting Ducks. I recall writing some of my recent posts and realize  my […]

  13. […] In this post, from July 2011, you’ll read all the sounds I became newly aware of on an eight-day silent retreat Jose and I took. I posted several short essays that week, as peeling away the cocoon of noise/music/conversation/traffic laid bare a fresh set of insights and appreciations that were simply unattainable within the noisy distractions of everyday life. […]

  14. […] I did an eight-day silent retreat two years ago and when I re-emerged into the noisy chaotic world I was much more aware how noisy environments made me unconsciously eat more faster. […]

  15. […] and social, (even civil), with the many people we typically encounter every day in normal life. Here’s my post about the sounds I heard there when everything else was […]

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