Something in Nothing: My Summer of Silence

One evening this last summer, I went to an ice cream shop in St. Paul. I went with a good, longtime friend with a long list of things to talk about. We got our ice cream, then sat down outside to enjoy the evening. My summer leading up to this point, however, had not been so peaceful. I had been working a monotonous delivery job with little time for the intellectual stimulation of activities such as reading, writing, or praying. Most of that time I spent alone. My heart was in a state of disarray most of the time. The good conversation I was having sparked a creativity I forgot I possessed. It made me realize how unsophisticated my heart truly was. I had been working with a negligent spirit. Looking back, I can recall three satisfying moments in my summer which I lost in the shuffle of monotony. But on this night, coming at the end of a particularly bad week, I witnessed the most beautiful moment of my summer. It served me a cup of simplicity, reminding me to be content with being quiet.

We arrived in the evening around 8:30 to a bustling venue, just like you would expect an ice cream parlor to be after a hot summer day. Because it was beautiful weather and I had ice cream and an old friend by my side, I was in a peaceful state of mind. The shop closes at 10:00, but the owners are always happy to let people sit outside. By 10:30, most people including the employees, had left. The only people that remained were the two of us, a pair of older ladies, and a couple that was clearly on a first date. We noticed the couple in particular because we were side by side, facing them when they met in the parking lot and shook hands. We laughed to ourselves. It was sweet and almost silly to witness the beginnings of a brand new friendship from the position of old friends. We resumed our conversation as they came out and sat down directly across from us on the patio. 10:45 came, and so did 11. The more people left, the more empty bowls and spoons they left behind, the more silences there were in our conversation. They were natural silences; there was room to think, something I had had all summer, but never recognized as an opportunity.

The older ladies left. We sat there together and talked in quieter tones than before. Around 11:45, the couple got up and began to say some sort of goodbye. It struck me then that we had all been sitting there for almost the same length of time. We had not been paying much attention to them, but the change of atmosphere caught my attention. The streets all of a sudden became more quiet, the night seemed a little colder, and I felt more tired; I realized how late it was becoming. The couple embraced in a classic, awkward first date hug, no longer strangers, but friends. As they separated from the hug, their hands remained out in front of them, touching. They looked down at their hands, then back at each other. I could not see his face, but I could see hers. Her eyes looked into his, glowing with expectation. Nothing needed to be spoken. Alone, but together, they leaned in to kiss. I was silent.

Must’ve been forces, that took me on them wild courses
Who knows how many poses that I’ve been in
But them the main closest. Hark, it gives meaning mine
I cannot really post this, ah, feel the signs

This moment reminds me of the meaning inherent in existence, in being, and in breathing. I realized the silences I lived in, and live in, can be meaningful. Daily life is full of chances to dwell in and on silence, with others or in solitude. The conscious repetition of mundane tasks can make us tenderhearted and peaceful when they are oriented towards service. The silence of a lonely evening suggests all the people that could fill it, like empty ice cream bowls suggest scoops. The silences one experiences in solitude can be meaningless simply because one fails to recognize them as meaningful. These silences are captivating. They are poems lingering in the air long after they have been read. In my final two weeks of work before school, I went straight back to being unappreciative, experiencing silences as meaningless. But I would often remember this night. It stayed in the bottom of my soul, teaching me the way in which I should walk. It remains there the way silences do, heavy and rich, like ice cream.

Awake my soul

Awake, my soul

—Mumford and Sons

Marcus Lotti is a sophomore studying English.

 

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