141A friendly Unicorn enjoying the Sleeping Bear Dunes’s quiet.

I live in an apartment complex with paper-thin walls and people living directly above me, so I don’t get a lot of quiet.  The two guys upstairs often walk around in their shoes, listen to cheesy pop-country music, and leave their phones on vibrate.  The two folks next door have a young daughter who likes to make a game of slamming the cupboard doors, and the dad likes playing and singing with her.  She often watches kids shows with weird, playful music.  I try hard not to hate these people–they’re living their lives just as I am–but they frustrate me, because I love quiet.

Today I had exactly the quiet I wanted.  I don’t need it to be quiet all the time, as I like music and motion in my life, too.  I’m sure I’m just as annoying to my neighbors as they are to me, especially now that I’m playing the ukulele, as I indulge in it pretty deeply sometimes.  Singing and playing along with Will Oldham is one of the greatest treats I have, and since I play with so much gusto I’m almost tearing up sometimes, it follows that I’m loud enough that my neighbors can hear.

As much as I love music, I love quiet.  As I exercised today, I could hear five things: my clock keeping time, my heater humming electricity, the light wind rustling leaves, birds chirping, and my own breath.  Afterwards, hiding my clock under a pillow, switching off the heater, and slowing and quieting my breath, the quiet was even more resonant.  Nothing moved.  Everything was still.

Quiet is rejuvenating, at least while the quiet lasts.  As a neighbor pulled his car up to the building, leaving the pounding music on while he unpacked things from the backseat and trunk, I couldn’t help but be angry at the noise and at his lack of consideration.  The music stopped fairly quickly, though, and I eased back into the quiet.  It continued until I finished exercising, which is all that I ask.

Now, I hear a neighbor running water through pipes, my computer’s (at least) six fans moving air, my refrigerator’s motor running, and my fingers tapping the keys.  These sounds are so loud that I can’t hear much else.  I’m okay with that, though, because I started my day with quiet.  Noise is inevitable.  Being able to choose when that noise comes and when to emerge from quiet is empowering.

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