The neighborhood smells good these days, of green, of dust, of dying flowers, of cooler air and lower clouds. I walked into the woods on Rosh Hashanah to smell it even closer, to get that scent along with calls of birds, a few falling leaves, and filtered sunlight through the trees.

I heard an Ellen Bass poem that included the line, “…the smell of apricots thickening the air when you boil jam in early summer” and it brought me right back to my mother’s kitchen, to the enormous steaming pots on the stove, the mason jars lined up on the countertop, the glazed golden fruit sending up that particular redolent scent of apricots stewing, condensing, reduced down to their essential flesh. She gave jars away as presents and still dozens of glowing quarts lined the pantry shelves, or the shelves in the garage, along with the dill pickles she also put up every year.

I don’t read a lot of poetry, and oftentimes poems leave me confused or bored. But sometimes they land on me like a mantle or take me soaring in a direction I’ve never been, or hadn’t expected.

We’d decided not to have a family dinner for Rosh Hashanah this year, I’m not sure why, but it ended up right because one kid was in the midst of moving and the other kid had a family with fall colds. I spent the morning in a luscious four hour writing retreat, and then walked in the tiny wooded hillside near our house. Tall shady trees, dense underbrush and forest scents, robins, chickadees, sparrows, kinglets all singing and rustling around me – it’s like being dropped into a new skin. It turned out to be the perfect start to the new year. I do love people, but I love my aloneness and loneliness as well. I can smell and hear and taste and see so much better when there’s less stimulation coming at me.

I’m reading the book Quiet, which confirms all the physical reasons why this is the case for me, and why it’s so hard for me to be in large groups where everyone talks at once. I spent most of my life thinking I was defective, and often wanted to be the talkative, interesting, popular girl. But I’m not wired that way. In my earlier days I would melt down after too much intense social time, rather than withdrawing gracefully, perhaps leaving others bewildered. But maybe not. Maybe they knew me better than I knew myself. It’s only in maturity that I’ve not only come to understand it but also relish it and love my own weirdness, and titrate as needed. The brighter side of aging.

The afternoons are still mostly warm for now, with a few in between days of drizzle. I’m determined to absorb all the sunshine I can while it remains, and squeeze out every last bit of summer. Glimmers of fall show themselves here and there, but mostly it’s fading flowers, scattered brown leaves on the ground, and cool early mornings that allow for a comfortable soak in the hot tub.

I linger in the shade of the woods, not ready to return to the other world, and hope for a chance to see the bunnies at their crossing before heading back home. I haven’t seen them yet, but you never know.

14 thoughts on “Quiet

  1. Nancy,
    The book Quiet changed my life when I read it many years ago. It was the most significant book towards my healing process ever, helping me to understand myself and feel good about who I am.
    I read every word of your blog posts and have saved them all. It is a book by now. In this way I get to visit with you from a distance and get a glimpse of your journey. I hope we can get together for music, a walk, conversation at some point in time. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. File this beautiful post under parallel lives. From the jars of jam and pickles in your Mom’s kitchen, to the awkward early years of too much socialization and not enough fitting seamlessly in, to enjoying the part of aging that allows for celebrating weirdness and embracing what being an introvert means. We are kindred spirits for sure. I love, love, love the book Quiet. One of my favorites this year. It was like a map and compass in finding myself.( Bittersweet is right up there too). It helped me to do less aplogizing for who I am and more embracing the things I bring to the table. I’m seeing poetry differently these days too, and enjoying it more deeply. A well written poem carries the depth of what many take whole books to say and Ellen Bass is one of the brilliant ones. Happy New Year, Nancy*

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      • I hadn’t heard of that, but I’ll give it a look. I think that many parts of both of Cain’s books resonated with me, but even aside from that it gave me real insight into others. The parts dealing with children and learning are even a bit mind-blowing. For people like me who struggle with permission to just “be” these books are all kinds of yes to the joys and okayness of being thoughtful and attentive and present.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. From a far away friend, who is sustained and touched by your posts and the richness of your observations of your life. Perhaps there is also such a thing as too much quiet and loneliness, what I am feeling now with this change of season and sense of isolation. Xoxo

    Stacey Meadows


    Liked by 1 person

    • There is most certainly too much quiet and loneliness. I just got to the part of Quiet where she explains how once you know how you’re wired you can better be pro-active to weave social (one on one / deeper discussion / low stimulation) time with alone time. It’s hard for you right now to reach out perhaps, but better times will come. I think of you often. If you ever want to have a one on one writing session let me know, I would love that. Thank you for being here. xo N


  4. Just as I was about to comment that Quiet changed my life, I saw that your first commenter above, Wendy, said the same. I love when I meet people who feel this way.

    Susan Cain has a new book now. I’m reading it slowly. I heard her talk about it at the 92 St Y while it was in progress just before the pandemic. I wrote a post about it on my blog.

    Quiet led me to Elaine Aron, and if Quiet changed my life, the HSP book utterly transformed it. Have you read it? And if so, what are your thoughts?

    Love your writing!


    • Thanks for your kind words!
      I hadn’t heard of Bittersweet or The Highly Sensitive Person, and now my book list grows longer. I don’t know if I’m highly sensitive or not. I am certainly that person in the movie theater who shrieks or gasps audibly when something sudden happens, or the music or drumbeat swells. And I cry at puppy commercials. But other things don’t ring true. So I guess I’ll read the book! It’s great to find out all these new things about myself at age 67. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Such beauty. So many parallels. The jars of fruit with popping lids (no applesauce making and canning for me this year; no apples on the trees). The quiet, the very definition of introvert you have provided; I will add the book to my list. Thank you for your words, my friend, and the beautiful illustrations.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Gretchen. I’m sorry about the apples! Do they go up and down naturally, like the squirrel population? I remember reading about that cycle with acorns in Sweetgrass. Or is it climate change?
    Thanks for reading, as always, x N


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