Detail from the porch of the Saluda Clergy Cottage

Detail from the porch of the Saluda Clergy Cottage

Spending a quiet weekend in Saluda preparing the Clergy Cottage for the 2013 season. The key word here is “quiet.” I had forgotten how nearly silent it is here compared to the busy crossroads (which inspired last week’s blog post) we live on in Savannah.

When I awoke in the middle of the night last night, the only sound I could hear was the ringing in my ears. It felt almost preternatural. Even this morning, the birdsong seemed somewhat muted.

On the corner of Whitaker and Gaston, there is a constant deluge of sound: cars, motorcycles, the sirens of police cars, fire engines and ambulances, trolleys full of tourists and the continual patter of their guides. Because Forsyth Park is across the street, bird song is almost continual, and often loud. I even heard our downstairs neighbor once tell a particularly noisy little avian to “shut up, bird.”

In addition, there’s the sound of people laughing or talking, sometimes even yelling, as they pass by; there’s the rhythm of joggers’ feet slapping the pavement as they run around the park; the cacophony of dogs barking; drums beating, and the occasional drift of music from various instruments. It is easily the symphony of city life.

Sitting here in the quiet of the Blue Ridge Mountains reminds me what it is like to experience the natural peace of the outdoors. I have learned to tune out, when necessary, the noisy strains of city life. But there are times I find it wonderfully liberating to hear absolutely nothing.

The following poem by Wendell Berry seemed particularly apropos this weekend:

 Sabbath Poem II, 1995

The best reward in going to the woods

Is being lost to other people, and

Lost sometimes to myself. I’m at the end

Of no bespeaking wire to spoil my goods;

I send no letter back I do not bring.

Whoever wants me now must hunt me down

Like something wild, and wild is anything

Beyond the reach of purpose not its own.

Wild is anything that’s not at home

In something else’s place. This good white oak

Is not an orchard tree, is unbespoke,

And it can live here by its will alone.

Lost to all other wills but Heaven’s—wild.

So where I most am found I’m lost to you,

Presuming friend, and only can be called

Or answered by a certain one, or two.