And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Lately, I’ve been finding myself craving silence. Typically, when I get into one of my cars, I immediately turn on the music, either via CD in one car or Spotify in the other (because the newest cars have the gall not to have CD players!). But for the last few weeks, I haven’t even reached for the switch. When I’m home alone, I keep the television off. I speak to the pets in a whisper. I’m avoiding crowds. I just want it to be quiet.
I know where this is coming from. The world is so loud right now. We’ve talked about noise pollution for years, noise coming from traffic and machinery. But our newest noise pollution is coming from people. I can’t turn on my computer or the television without seeing and hearing scenes of people standing in mobs, yelling and screaming. Everything seems to cause great anger, and everything seems a reason to protest.
I’ve been most shocked by the scenes coming from school board meetings. Across the entire country, parents are standing up and interrupting, yelling, screaming, cursing, over the mask debate. Over both sides of the math debate. All I can think when I see these scenes is that we, as parents, are supposed to be role models for our kids. What are we teaching them? That there’s no such thing as listening? No such thing as discussion? That it’s okay to use foul and violent language on everyone from teachers to principals to board members? That no one deserves our respect, at least long enough to listen and consider?
I look at my granddaughter and I worry.
This week, I talked with someone who is a new school board member in a different city. She supported the mask mandate. And then she had to sit for five hours through a meeting where parents pitched fit after fit after fit. She has now received death threats and vile messages. Over masks. Over masks! Death threats over masks?
Here in Waukesha, we made national news when our school board decided (wrongfully) to not take advantage of a federal program that provides free meals to all kids in the schools. One board member said (audaciously) that this would “spoil” our children. After much public outcry, the decision was reversed. But the woman who was worried about spoiling is now receiving – you guessed it – death threats and vile messages. Now, I’ll be the first to say that she was being ridiculous and cruel and likely should not be on a school board representing children. But death threats?
I was, until recently, the president of our condo board. At our last meeting, a neighbor interrupted my every sentence, shouted over me, and called me names. She didn’t seem to think this was unusual behavior. Then, a few weeks ago, I had to tell a neighbor that we couldn’t cut down and replace a dead tree in front of his unit because the condo association doesn’t own the strip of grass the tree is planted in. He responded by sending me a string of emails, filled with f-bombs and m-f bombs and all sorts of vile language. He finished by calling me a liberal.
I suppose I should be grateful he didn’t threaten my life. But all this over a dead tree that isn’t even on our property? I resigned.
Silence, please, silence. The noise is exhausting.
So late last night, or early this morning, depending on how you feel about 2:00 a.m., I was getting ready for bed. I live in the heart of downtown Waukesha, and so even at that hour, there was some noise. A car passing by. The hum of streetlights. A distant train, a not-so-distant siren. And then suddenly, there was a new sound.
I froze. Was that…?
It came again. A car went by, so I wasn’t sure, and I waited some more. But then…there it was again.
I’ve lived in this condo for 15 years. I have never heard an owl.
I stopped what I was doing and went out on the 3rd floor deck. As I leaned against the railing, I heard it again and again. The call echoed in the empty parking lot. Somewhere, in one of the surrounding trees, was an owl. I closed my eyes, dipped my head, and listened with all my heart.
Back in 2018, I was sitting in an allergist’s office, after a night when I went into anaphylactic shock over sunflower seeds, something I’d eaten my entire life. The oral chemotherapy drug I took for breast cancer exacerbated current conditions, and my allergies were out of control. I sat there, defeated, doctor’s appointments and offices now routine in my life, wondering if breast cancer didn’t get me, if bizarre allergies would. I scrolled through my phone and suddenly, my screen was filled with the face of an owl. It was a photo taken by a student, who found the owl in her backyard.
I made that photo my Moment. In that blog, I said, I sat in that sterile room, expecting nothing and expecting the worst, and I just took in this owl’s face. I wasn’t in the forest, but as far as I’m concerned, we did breathe the same air. She drew me in to her meditation. Magical reality. My shoulders relaxed. My pulse slowed. My mind stilled.
And now, on my deck, I didn’t see this owl. But I heard it. I heard it with my whole peace-craving heart. And I stilled again.
When I finally climbed into bed, I could still hear that owl’s call, through my bedroom window. I slept deeper than I have in weeks.
I hope he’s still there tonight.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
(If you would like to see that original blog,, it was posted on 2/1/18.)