Surely this is one of the positive gifts of old age – the appreciation and enjoyment of quietness. That saying from an elderly sage – ‘sometimes I sits and thinks; sometimes I just sits’ – is how it is for many of us. You can have an active life and the days are filled – at whatever age – but then at the end or in the middle of the day, for us older people, you find yourself moving into an interior world that belongs only to you. And you are quiet, as you contemplate your being and the beauty of the earth and the skies, and celebrate your life and all that has enriched it over the years.
‘Oh! she’s in a world of her own’ is usually meant as a criticism by people frustrated or amused by the distance we create when we are lost in our thoughts. Never mind. This is the world where we are ourselves and from which we test and challenge the world around us, and we need to feel at home and safe there. ‘Retreats’ have been popular amongst religious people for many years and more recently there are many similar opportunities for rest and recuperation; they point to everyone’s need to move inward before they can continue to move onward.
For older people their age provides the opportunity to do that on a daily basis.
In the stillness and the silence we enter into a haven of memory and reflection that is all our own. It doesn’t cut us off from others – or at least we don’t wish it to -and, fair enough if you are young, rushing around and being noisy is what life is for: sorting out the world in great fits of enthusiasm and going to gigs where the amplified music assaults the senses.
But not for us. This is not a protest at noise, though we have been known to complain! The quietness is not an escape but an invitation to affirm and value all that is permanent and sustaining in our lives.
And in the stillness there are sounds that only we can hear – perhaps Wordsworth’s ‘intimations of immortality’, or just the birds outside which otherwise we might not have noticed or the neighbours talking over the garden fence, which we can’t escape noticing and in this moment don’t wish to. And from the deep reservoir of our stillness, every sound we cherish.