Monday, February 17, 2014


There are many kinds of quiet.

The awkward Did I really say that out loud? quiet.
The I don't know what to say next  because what you just said is so ridiculous quiet
The I am silenced by the beauty and magnificence I behold before me quiet.
The I am alone quiet.
The We are engrossed quiet.
The We are so close--so in tune that we can just be together without talking every minute quiet.
The  Everyone in the room is writing quiet.
And more...
There are many kinds of quiet.

 In The Quiet Book, Deborah Underwood  defines the many possible quiets we might experience as children (or still as adults) through out the day--from waking to going to bed at night.

First one awake quiet...Don't scare the robin quiet..Thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet
Hide-and-seek quiet, Last one to be picked up from school quiet... Before the concert starts quiet .. Bedtime kiss quiet...
Sound asleep quiet

As I think about that  sound asleep quiet, I  am reminded of one of my all time favorite read-alouds, The Napping House by Audrey Wood.  The soft, soothing words that define a house "where everyone is sleeping"  read in a quiet voice rock us slowly and lull us.....

...And on that cat
there is a mouse,
a slumbering mouse
on a snoozing cat
on a dozing dog
on a dreaming child
on a snoring granny
in a cozy bed
in a napping house,
where everyone is sleeping

These words lull us...until the wakeful flea initiates a chain of events that is guaranteed to delight and amuse.

All those people and animals sleeping in the napping house reminds me of the scene Cynthia Rylant paints in The Relatives Came.  She beautifully captures the difference people make-- even the quiet of a whole house sleeping sounds different when the people sleeping there are new and different, yet close and familiar.

The relatives weren’t particular about beds, which was good since there weren’t any extras, so a few squeezed in with us, and the rest slept on the floor, some with their arms thrown over the closest person, or some with an arm across one person and a leg across another. It was different, going to sleep with all that new breathing in the house.

Sometimes the activity in which we are engaged requires our quiet participation.  In Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, another favorite read-aloud classic,  a young girl accompanies her father on a special walk through the moonlit woods to go owling.  After he hoots-- imitating the call of the Great Horned Owl  ... they wait in quiet anticipation for an echoing answer.

It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling.  There was no wind.  The trees stood still as giant statues.  And the moon was so bright the sky seemed to shine... 
... it was as quiet as a dream.  We walked on towards the woods, Pa and I.
...I never called out. If you go owling  you  have to be quiet, that's what Pa says.
 And finally, in his poem  Keeping Quiet, Pablo Neruda reminds us of the healing empowerment, the positive potential of quiet .  He invites us to a  collective quiet, a united and purposeful quiet in which might change the world.

...It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines;we would all be together in a sudden strangeness....
...perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death...
You may read the entire poem,  Keeping Quiet here
You will find more poetry by Pablo Neruda here.

The next time you are quiet--- listen and name that quiet.
In the next quiet place--listen and define that quiet.

You may want to read my related post Silences.

 Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

There are many kinds of quiet.  Make a list of as many kinds as you can remember and imagine.
Create a poem using some or all of the items on your list.

Remember an activity in which you needed to be quiet.    Write a personal narrative about that time.

How does quiet empower/heal/change us?   Write a poem or essay to explain.

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