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When silence gave way to noise

As it often happens, I go back with my thoughts to the days of my youth. I don't understand what it is that brings me mentally again to those days prior to World War II.

In the stillness of the evening, I would sit at the back of our home. It would be so quiet, not a sound to be heard. There were no automobiles, no loud talking people around anywhere. It was a stillness that had to be observed. In the far, far distance, a cow would let a slow melancholy moo, a dog a lonely bark. And all around us came the dew slowly rising out of the ditches surrounding the cow pastures.

My mom would come out and sit next to me. She would ask, "What are you doing?"

I would answer softly, "I am listening to the silence."

"Yes," would be her reply, "isn't it impressive?" That would be the end of our conversation, but we would go on with the listening. She would understand where I was coming from and what enticed me during those balmy summer evenings to sit there. My dad did not see it our way, or I should say, hear it our way.

Slowly the dew would nearly enfold the cows in the pasture, and all we could see of them would be some slow-moving gray silhouettes. Oh, the peace of it all.

All that changed after a few years. The war found even us in our dreamlike corner of the universe. No longer the solitude of the summer evening. Now in its place came relentless noise, military trucks, hob-nailed boots goose-stepping down the cobbled, lined streets of our small village.

But we had hope. A hope that some day soon that peaceful existence with balmy summer nights would return. But it never did. The military trucks and the boots disappeared. But the people left behind had changed. No longer were they satisfied to act as silent partners in a changed world. Now there was noise.

The world that had been laid in ruin needed rebuilding, and that caused noise. The people, previously content with whatever they had and used to a tranquil existence, no longer possessed the precious commodity of inner peace. Instead, a different attitude and feeling toward their fellow man now made its appearance. A feeling of "can I help you?" was replaced with "me first."

I, too, changed. All of us had seen the methods of the enemy during those war years — how they had operated and dealt with certain situations. Somehow, regrettably, it did rub off somewhat on all of us. I became more violent toward young birds. I considered them a dirty nuisance, and I would take them from their warm nests and drown or suffocate them. Thankfully, after a while, I outgrew that deplorable act.

Did the peaceful evenings sitting in back of my parents home ever return? No, they did not. They never came back, although I kept looking for them for a number of years. I grew up and moved away. Now I only have the memories of those peaceful evenings, which now, looking back, seemed almost like a spiritual awakening.

Tony Antonides lives in Central Point.