Friday, 17 August 2012
The Sound of Silence
My favourite song of all time. All right, tell me I am a boring old f*** but I still love that Simon and Garfunkel song best of all. There was a time when I knew all the words - that time is long gone but whenever I hear it now I stand and listen. As to what it means - well I just went on line to find out and there are so many interpretations that I came away thinking that as far as I am concerned it means whatever I want it to mean.
I once wrote to R S Thomas, the Welsh Poet, asking him what one of his poems meant and he replied, saying it meant whatever I wanted it to mean and that that was the essence of all good poetry - it spoke to the individual.
But - silence - we so rarely 'hear' it, even out here in the countryside. We are near to Leeming airfield, so often there are jets flying over; we are near to Catterick Garrison so often there are helicopters flying over; the main road is probably a quarter of a mile up the lane and in the Summer the Dales are full of motor-cyclists, so there are often motor-cycles roaring past on the main road, particularly at the weekend. Then there are the natural sounds - the wind whistling through the trees, the songs of birds, the sound of rain on the window-pane.
But one place you can more or less guarantee silence in a real sense is inside a church. The church in the photograph is the 11th century church at Edlingham in Northumberland. It is one of the most peaceful, quiet places I have ever been to. If you go there when there is no-one else there (and it seems to be little-visited) the sense of peace and quiet is amazing.
Is it because the walls are thick and the place is insulated against outside sounds? Well, yes to some extent. But I like to think that these thick walls have absorbed the silence of generations of worshippers, that what you are homing in on is that all-pervading sense of peace and continuity.
A friend, W, is visiting that part of the world next week. I hope W and her friend find time to visit Edlingham, to sit awhile in its peace and quiet and absorb the beauty of the ancient place.