It is rare to hear absolutely nothing. There are a few moments in every day, week, month, that I can notice a palpable silence and appreciate its emptiness. That’s not to say that the sound of my friends’ voices, or the pounding of footsteps in the school hallways are bothersome, rather that noticing their absence allows me to further appreciate their presence.
Of course the sound of silence can be appreciated by anyone just about anywhere in the country: a mother finally putting her crying infant to sleep, returning home to a house of stagnant air, waking up at the crack of dawn before the dogs and birds set in on their morning chatter. In fact, John Cage’s 4:33 is an ode to silence itself; it is a performance of four minutes and 33 seconds of tacit nothingness. So yes, silence is rare, but it is not unique. A song far more peaceful than that of silence and exclusive to our town is the lull of a river flowing over rocks and the flutter of a canopy disturbed by the wind. I refer to the Norwalk River Valley Trail.
Before I acquired my license and a car, were I to miss the bus or simply not have a ride home from the high school, the trail was the most direct route back to my house. Lugging my 30 pounds of textbooks and notes across the pavement and sidewalks was a chore, but once I stepped foot onto the trail, my burden became a blessing. I can say with frank hindsight that, if I didn’t need to walk home, then I wouldn’t have discovered the path’s serenity. But because I had to walk, I stumbled upon the experience of meandering down the side of the river alone. After just 20 or 30 steps into the woods, the steady flow of water overpowered the buzz of Route 7, and the crack of leaves under my foot strung together into a brisk rhythm, conducting my pace. Occasionally a couple on a stroll or a jogger would pass me, but other than those breaks in isolation, I felt as if I were in a place completely separate from town.
Too frequently people miss opportunities because they don’t have time, or won’t make time for them. In Wilton, the tragedy is that we have this exceptional walk of nature just off of the center of town, and only a minimal number of people engage in the opportunity to use it. I never would have discovered it had I not been forced onto it. But now that I have enjoyed the benefits of the trail, I feel almost obligated to share about it.
So if you find yourself in a moment without obligations, or tasks, or chores, you may take the time to drink in the silence. But if you want to give that time purpose, to drown out your thoughts in the vapid white noise of squirrels racing through foliage, to sample a sound much sweeter than the empty air, make your way to the trail.
Tor Aronson is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with five classmates.