Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Look for the Simple Noise

Often when the world feels out of control I dip into my old-fashioned French “handbook” - L’art de vivre au fils des jours - The Art of Living from Day to Day by Victoire de Montesquiou. I am comforted by Victoire’s reflections on life. She looks at life head on. She makes no bones about the fact that life is complicated and has bumps in the road. She feels strongly about the rules of etiquette and that following those rules helps to keep things running smoothly. She believes that it is often the simple things that bring out the best of life.

Here is Victoire’s entry for La vie avec les autres (living with others) from the January chapter-

Listen to the silence of winter. During the month of January we can learn to listen to the respiration of sleeping nature. Listening is a type of meditation, emptying ourselves, letting ourselves be filled with the serenity and the energy indispensable for living with enthusiasm and hope.

I detest noise, the racket of radios and televisions in the building; the often empty babble of the news, loud music in stores and restaurants, even the most “chic”. I do not like that blanketing fog of noise. 

In order to respect others and your neighbors, make the effort to make the least amount of noise possible. Lower the sound of your radio, record player and television. If you love to listen to music like you are at a concert, wear head phones. Do the same for late night television shows. Take your bath at “normal “ hours, remember that the insulation in certain old buildings leaves something to be desired.

On the other hand, pay attention to commonplace noises - to the breath of the household, the lively expressions of your family’s daily life. Savor the murmurs of the city as it wakes up and the sunset in the countryside when the evening bells sound and the cows come home; the swoosh of starlings swirling into the tops of trees to roost; the explosion of energy as school children escape to recess;  the joyful laughter of children at any moment and the crazy laughter of adults at the theatre. I love the cacophony emanating from the orchestra pit as musicians tune up and then burst into a few practice measures; the whisperings of a mountain village: muffled footsteps in the snow, the gurgling of a fountain, the swish of a sled or skies; the first cry of a newborn baby; the clatter of awaited footsteps on the staircase, the familiar creaking of an old door worn out by time; the long and silky murmurs of bicycles passing by…

I especially like silence when I find myself alone. In looking for silence one finds the beauty of life.

These are Victoire’s sounds, but I can envision all of them. They remind me to stop and listen to the small quiet noises, or the big raucous noises, in my life. I know full well that we do not all have the luxury of slowing down to listen to what is surrounding us and that even if we did the noise might be too terrifying to allow in. But I do know that the underlying theme of slowing down, listening to what is there, listing to who is there, will help me find peace within myself and hopefully the strength and courage to work for the peace of others.

At the moment I am living a life of great privilege to choose what I listen to. This is my small prayer for all of the displaced frightened people of the world that are finding it impossible to listen to the terrible things around them. I pray they may find small things to hold onto so as to hold onto their humanity.

A friend recently lent me this timely read:

A Gentleman in Moscow - by Amor Towles  

beautiful, sweet and provides some insights to Russian history

Another read that I'm mentioning just because I read everything to do with expats exploring France:

Chasing Matisse A Year in France Living My Dream - by James Morgan

a book project to explore where Matisse practiced his art and the author trying to discover himself...


anne fitchie said...

Beautiful Susan x

Kathie K said...

I really appreciate your closing comments. Beautifully expressed.

Jeanie said...

I feel the quiet most at the lake in the summer where we really don't turn on the radio or stream much until the evening, if that. Water lapping on the beach, birdsong, a boat going by (or more likely, a wretched, loud jet-ski!). But no matter where, my best sound is Lizzie's purr. Oh, to bottle that for any stressful moment!

This is such a lovely post. It makes one stop and think. And yes, be very grateful. Take care.

Lynn mcbride said...

Susan, your most beautiful post ever, thank you. Worth saving and rereading.

Anonymous said...

Merci Susan, j’aime bien ce que tu écris sur l’équilibre entre les bruits et les silences qui donnent le sens à notre vie. Mais j’aime beaucoup aussi tes photos si belles qui accompagnent chaque bruit.