Can you hear the sounds of silence?

The next time you lie down in bed to go to sleep, try not to go to sleep for a few minutes. It’s kind of an out-of-body biofeedback kind of thing, but just lie there with your head on your pillow – preferably while lying on your back – and just listen. Listen to everything that’s going on around you.

That light clunking, whirring sound coming from above? Oh, yeah, it’s the ceiling fan. I forgot my wife turned it on to keep the air circulating in the bedroom.

What’s that humming sound coming from the other room? Um, right, it’s the refrigerator. We were given a new one recently by our son and daughter-in-law for a Mother’s Day present and we’re still not quite used to the sound it makes when the compressor kicks on. My wife also told me that when I open the refrigerator door while she is still awake, she can hear a little clunk where it twists on its hinges.

I hear a train whistle in the distance. Ahhh, what a lovely sound coming from the tracks a few hundred yards from our house. It reminds me of my childhood when the house I grew up in was located just across a two-lane dirt road. We would hear not only the train whistle, but feel the rumbling of the engine and the cars as the train powered up for a trek south to places like Saugatuck and Fennville and Kalamazoo or even farther, maybe to Chicago or somewhere out west.

We have family staying in our basement. Sometimes I can hear the water running when one of them gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or to get a drink. Our basement steps creak, so I can hear my son in the morning when he comes up for breakfast. I can click off in my mind what he’s doing just by the sounds. He’s pouring water into the coffeemaker, now he’s adding the grounds and … click, it’s on! There’s a ching, pop as he pushed the toaster handle down and the bread comes up. A cupboard door opens and closes as he retrieves a jar of peanut butter. Oops, coffee’s ready, time to pour the stuff into his travel mug and snap on the lid.

Well, you get the drill.

Recently, however, we spent a couple of nights without any of those sounds. My wife and I drove about 90 minutes down to Union City, Michigan where we stayed two nights in the Victorian Villa Inn, a Bed & Breakfast that was running a special weeknight deal of $90 per night, Monday through Thursday. It was a beautiful place, three stories of restored magnificence with gorgeous oak wood throughout and a Sherlock Holmes-themed interior. Union City is a small town, so it didn’t take us long to walk through downtown and visit the cute little shops. The Daily Grind is a coffee shop owned by the B&B people, so we had two breakfasts there. Free. The morning of the full day we stayed there, I drove to nearby Burlington to play golf at the Turtle Creek Golf Course. Nice. It was just down the road from the Turtle Creek Naturist Resort, but we chose not to visit the nudists. I even fished a couple of times on the St. Joseph River, just downstream from the dam. There was a full moon, but no fish. Still, it was beautiful. And relaxing.

What will remain etched in my mind for some time, though, but perhaps not in my ears, is what I experienced each of the two nights we stayed in what once was the carriage house behind the Bed and Breakfast. We left the door and one window open and even turned the ceiling fan on low.

As I was lying in bed Tuesday evening, in the room that was nearly dark (the shade trees prevented the moonlight from getting through), I nudged my wife with my elbow and whispered: “Do you hear that?”

“No,” she replied. “What?”

“Exactly,” I said. “Absolutely nothing.”

It was the best night of sleep we had in a long time.


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