The Luxury of Quietness

Today was a busy day, filled with several meetings in different locations. I drove a lot, and although I love driving, I was aware of the loudness of the highway. Motors roared, music blasted from the rolled down windows, honking startled me.
I dreamed of silence.
The cafés where I met were lively and friendly but loud conversations wrapped all around me.
I wanted to shut out the sound.
Tonight, as I drove down our long windy driveway, I sighed a sigh of relief.
A flock of quails left the rosemary bush in a silky rustle of feathers. A couple of hawks soared above the house. A squirrel climbed an oak tree. 
I opened the door, dropped my bags, hung my coat, and listened to the quietness of my home.
A blanket made of cashmere fell instantly on my shoulders.
I didn’t turn the TV on (even though we can watch the French news now!), I didn’t put music on (although I love the latest Julien Clerc my mom sent for Christmas), and I didn’t talk to anyone as I cooked.
Silence can be heavy as a wall but light as silk when we’ve craved it for a day.
When I moved from Paris to Palo Alto, it took me a while to adjust to the quietness of a small town. I missed the honking of the taxis and the sirens of the ambulances at night. When I moved from the Bay Area to the foothills, it was another major change. Since 1990 I had lived in densely populated areas on both coasts of the country.
At night, the coyotes, crickets, frogs, owls and even the bright stars illuminating the pitch-black sky kept me awake. Now I have a hard time to fall asleep amidst the constant noise and artificial lights of any big city.
I still love Paris, San Francisco, London, Los Angeles and Chicago a lot. Sometimes, I crave them as much as I crave water on a long summer hike.
But tonight, in a loud and louder world, I feel lucky to have the luxury of quietness at the tip of my fingers.
Or at least, at the end of a long windy driveway.

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