A few weeks ago, out walking the dog in the early morning, I was struck by how quiet it was. Well, relatively. Because the more I focused on the quietness, the more I realized it wasn’t quiet at all. We live in the centre of a city of eighty thousand, a 6-lane motorway only 500 meters away, and – as the crow flies – about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the end of one of five runways at Schiphol airport. In other words, there is always a high level of background noise in our neighborhood. And even though on this morning it was quiet enough for me to hear the birds singing in the treetops, if I listened I could also hear the roar of jet engines and the hum of traffic in the distance.
The most quiet I can remember it ever being where we live was in the middle of the night after a heavy snow had closed the airport and stopped all the traffic. But even then, one could hear noise from the neighborhood. I wondered, while walking the dog, what real quiet would be like. What if I could stop all the traffic, stop the birds, stop the ringing in my ears and the drum of my heart, maybe even still the “music of the spheres”? What would real, absolute quiet be like? In the end I decided I probably wouldn’t like it, not for very long.
Part of my wishful thinking has come true. The airplanes have all stopped. A volcano hundreds of kilometers away has brought air traffic in Europe to a standstill. Who would have thought? And everywhere I go in our little town, people are commenting on the sudden relative quietness that has descended upon us. What a treat!
Not only that, but the sky is so blue! Normally it is criss-crossed with contrails, or tainted with the whitish vapor that remains when they dissipate. Dutch airspace is a very busy place, and there is always a trace of that traffic in our sky. But yesterday and today the sky has been blue, blue , blue – with nothing to spoil it. Not a cloud, and not a single sign of an airplane. It is like we are living in a different age.
I didn’t think I minded, at all, the intrusion of modern air traffic in my life. I quite like the sound of jets taking off and landing. But now that everything is so still, and the sky is so blue, I believe I do mind.
I wonder what else clutters my life like this. Someday, when it is suddenly gone, my soul will let out a long-awaited sigh of relief.