quiet – good when you can find it

May 26, 2021


It was a noisy weekend.  It featured a chainsaw for a backyard tree-pruning session, the use of an electric planer that rivals a dentist’s drill for shrillness, and four days and nights of random neighbourhood fireworks.  In need of quiet, I was thoroughly enjoying our early morning bike ride where the loudest sounds were the slight breeze, the honking of the park geese, and the bells of a midtown church calling worshippers to wakefulness.


On this day, part of the multi-use path was blocked off for repairs.  The strollers, cyclists and the glassy-eyed Sunday morning wanderers wearing Saturday’s shoes * had forged their own path over an adjacent hill leaving a noticeable trail of trampled grass.


On approaching the hill, I squeezed my hand brakes and prepared to engage in proper path etiquette.  I would ring my bell to signal my approach and my intention to pass on the left.  Not wanting to add any unnecessary, harsh sounds to this peaceful morning, I intended to have a bit of a softer touch on my bell. 


As my bike slowed, I did a quick visual intake of the grey hairs, the forward-rounding shoulders and the remarkably unhurried gait of the couple in front of me .  Not side by side, but clearly a couple, they were just beginning their ascent of the makeshift hilly path.


The man had his hands clasped behind his back and he was looking down at the grass in front of him as if he was carrying out a mindfulness walking meditation.  He was a few steps behind and to the right of a person I assumed was his wife.  She was looking around at the ducks tending to their fuzzy little ones, smiling at the parents teaching their toddler to ride a bike and glancing over a couple sitting cross-legged on a blanket while scrolling on their phones.


Based on this several seconds of data collection, I decided to give a medium ring of my bell in case any age-related hearing impairment was a factor that would prevent them from hearing me. 


Medium bell ring.  No movement that signalled recognition of the bell by either of them.  


Medium to loud bell ring this time.  Nothing.  


I came to a full stop about five feet behind them and called out in my medium outdoor voice, “Coming up on your left”. The man’s stooped shoulders registered a slight startle. The woman’s next forward step was off to the right as she turned to look over her left shoulder.  She smiled and let out a genuine laugh and an “Oh my, you are so quiet!”


I returned the laugh and said “I don’t think the guy on the bike behind me would agree with that statement” as I point back to my partner easing up on us on his recumbent bike. 


The couple, who I expect have weathered many years together through the quiet and the noise, laughed in recognition of my sentiment and wished us a good day as we cycled past them.  The noises of a waking town were more apparent now as we made our way off the path and onto the streets towards home.


Later that evening, as we gazed at the moon from our midtown porch, we once again savoured the quiet.


That was just before the popping, whirring and banging of the fireworks began yet again.


Quiet is so good when you can find it!


*Phrase shamelessly pilfered from Richard Julian’s 2008 album and song, “Sunday Morning in Saturday’s Shoes”.


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