In the quiet: Searching for silence |

In the quiet: Searching for silence

Sam Wagner
The Aspen Times

It’s been awhile since I’ve lived in a small town.

That’s a relative phrase, of course, “small town.” Someone who’s lived in a tiny unincorporated village of 30 people might think Aspen is immense. But, in general, I’ve lived in some larger metropolitan areas before moving here, and I would guess that most agree Aspen is a cozy place, at least during the offseason.

Besides the generally friendlier greetings I receive, and the numerous times drivers will stop to allow me to cross a street, there was something that I had forgotten about while living in the big city.


Now, I actually enjoy silence, which is contrary to most people, one would assume. This is surely obvious to my late-night colleagues or perhaps a few kinda-awkward past dates. I can be lost in thought enough that quiet doesn’t bother me.

I realized that it’s something that was pushed to the back of my mind in larger cities. It’s such an impossibility that it’s not worth thinking about. However, after being here for a while during the lower-density season, I find myself occasionally searching for quiet as I walk home after work at night.

While more populous areas would always have a background din of cars or club music, Aspen is ever so close to a complete silence along certain streets.

It can be hard to find, unless you’re really looking. Even in a small town, there are enough nighttime drivers, or humming heaters, or buzzing insects, or slight breezes or late-October street bears looking for an open dumpster, from what I’m told. And it’s even harder indoors, with refrigerators, running computers and one or two noisy neighbors.

But if you ever encounter total silence, you recognize it.

It can be eerie at first, since we’re constantly surrounded by noise during the normal day. Most seek it out, I think, because noise means action, and action means accomplishment.

But, if you’re ready for it, silence can be contemplative, meditative. It makes you pause and look around, remember the moment. It can be a fleeting relaxation before you return to the endless tasks of the day or night.

Of course, don’t do something dangerous, but if you find yourself out after dark, take stock of how much noise, or lack thereof, surrounds you.

If nothing else, you can find something that very few people even think about, and even fewer experience.