What I remember most was the quiet.

You could hear the breeze. You could hear a fly buzzing. You could hear a cow mooing in the distance. I don’t think I ever heard a cow mooing in the distance before. In fact, I never heard a cow mooing anywhere. Except maybe on TV.

But it wasn’t about what this place was. It was what it wasn’t.

New York was noise. Unrelenting, all day…everyday. Night time was no less intense, just different.

When you step off the train in Penn Station, having just arrived from the Hudson Valley or some other more serene place, it hits you. Suddenly the buzzy train car yields to passengers jostling through the car doors, navigating the underground labyrinth; some headed for the surface, some following other subterranean passages to places like Brooklyn, Queens, or The Bronx. Mole-like, they’ll not see the surface for at least another hour.

But you continue looking for the way up and out, the pace quickening and sounds growing louder until finally you surface and it hits you square. “Is it always like this?” A visitor asks. “Yes. Yes it is” I reply.

When that is your place, where it is where you were conceived, incubated and introduced to the world, it’s not noisy or loud: it’s normal. Quiet is weird. Something wrong about quiet.

I’ve not lived in that world for years now, but when I return, my senses are assaulted, but then quickly readjust. Everything is reset to factory settings. It’s almost like a sabbatical from the quiet, the calm, the slowness.

Some would say from the boredom.

But I don’t find the wide open spaces of the midwest or the mountains of the Blue Ridge boring. It is all what you bring to it. A friend of mine recently avoided stepping on a rattle snake by a couple of feet. Here in the midwest. He could relate that story in a broken down bar in the middle of a prairie ghost town or at the most exclusive club in New York. Maybe even during intermission during a performance of Aida at the Met.

Nowhere is that story boring.

I love the constant commotion of the city, the firehouse around the corner going all night, the garbage trucks coming every day at 4:30 am, the constant traffic on the avenue below. But I also love the empty stillness of our quiet places.

© Glenn R Keller 2023, All Rights Reserved

One response to “Quiet”

  1. Although I have never lived in a city as busy as NYC I can definitely relate to what you wrote.

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