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Essay: There Will Be Silence

A while ago, I called L.L. Bean to place an order and had to wait for the “next available representative.” Expecting to hear promotions, I heard this message instead, “There will be silence while you hold.”

Silence! I was stunned. How daring of L.L. Bean to risk silence instead of trying to sell me something else. And while I waited, I thought about silence as an endangered species of experience. Where else did I find it?

In the night, mostly, when I was wakeful. Even in my crowded old neighborhood, things quieted down after dark and I was grateful. The silence invited me to bring it in from the outdoors. Into my mind and into my heart—which wasn’t easy.

It was a noisy place, my mind. A wounded place, my heart. And yet, they yearned for quiet, for peace.

I recalled some lines from Peter Matthiessen who wrote, “The great stillness in these landscapes… seeps into me day by day, and with it the unreasonable feeling that I have found what I was searching for without ever having discovered what it was.”

L.L. Bean gave me the gift of silence. How kind, how generous! More valuable than anything I could buy.