Hush

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There are few opportunities to experience the world without people, particularly if you live in a town.  But there is a special kind of hush on Christmas Day.  A silence so intense that it feels like it might shatter.  People are celebrating behind tightly closed doors and the roads are all but empty.

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Late afternoon, not long before sunset, I walk with Winston into the centre of town.  Every store is closed.  The street is lined with metal shutters, firmly down.  A few shop signs are still lit, a monitor flashes advertisements to an empty store, and the occasional light remains on.  High up above one of the shops is an open window.  I wonder if there are people in any of these lit rooms, guarding empty premises, or if it’s simply that the last person to leave forgot to turn out the lights.

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Wind whips down the street.  A handful of crispy leaves, scraps of paper and an empty milk carton spin around the street with a hollow rustling.  Something creaks.  There is the clink of a lamp-post as it sways in the wind.  And gulls.  When the people are absent, this town belongs to the gulls.  They perch high on the buildings, braying a lament or perhaps a celebration, that the streets are theirs.

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I stand in the centre of the street, looking from top to bottom.  There is no sound beyond the gulls and the wind-songs.  The cyclone of the leaves is the only sense of movement.  On my walk here, I saw only one person, in the distance, walking purposefully in pyjamas and a Santa hat.  I have heard only one car passing.  It doesn’t seem possible that I’m the only person on these usually busy streets, but I am.  I give thanks for the opportunity to see the world as the gulls see it.

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We walk home through vacant streets, Winston and I.  Christmas lights glitter in living rooms and gardens.  I think of the people behind those closed doors: how they have celebrated this day, how they are celebrating now.  All of the excess has come to this: the silence of the streets and a thankful pause before the madness of the Boxing Day sales begins.  There is fire in the sky ahead of me.  Black clouds like smoke, seared by a slash of blazing orange.  Darkness will be here soon and I will revel in the last hush before the people wake once more.

93 thoughts on “Hush

  1. Andrea, this is a stunning post. Yes the photos are beautiful. I especially like the golden sunlight against the buildings, and the funny gull too. However, as always, your words work magic. I felt I was with you in each footstep.
    It had a dream like quality. May all your favorite dreams come true. Happy holiday hugs.

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  2. This post is bliss in the midst of Christmas Day mayhem. I really wish I could have done just that , walk a town or city on Christmas Day just before the fall of evening . I loved the idea of someone leaving the window open in the building and the ‘person’ you saw with the Santa hat on , loved this beautifully written passage …thank you ❤️
    Cherryx

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  3. I live in the country so I often get the experience of this complete silence–but, I agree, it somehow seems different on Christmas and on New Year’s morning. I like the idea of being out and about when everyone else is tucked inside . . .

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  4. As I was hosting Christmas at my house, I was not out and about, but inside cooking! It was rather warm here for December, in the fifties, and I had to put my real eggnog on ice even though it was outside. We did have to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve, and I felt that hush that you so eloquently describe in your post. The roads were quiet and houses glowed from Christmas lights. I always feel such a sense of peace during this time, even though I’m frenetically busy.

    I hope you had a lovely Christmas!

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  5. I love those times of peacefulness and serenity, Andrea, and what perfect title to call it than, “Hush”. There’s a feeling of holiness and an energy of love that’s hard not to notice. You put yourselves out there to discover it and were embraced. God bless you and hope you had a Merry Christmas and wishing you a Happy New Year.

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  6. Beautiful post, Andrea. I love the light beaming off the buildings. This Christmas I experienced the quietness when I drove down a highway that’s lined with businesses and nothing was opened. I was the only car on a typically congested highway.

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  7. I’m loving the photographs of the sun setting behind the street and shops. No matter how it may look in daytime, it is magical at this time. Yes, it is rare, at least in more populated areas, to find these lovely moments of stillness. Lovely job of capturing it. Happy Christmas!

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  8. Isn’t this kind of silence beautiful? Your city is gorgeous, Andrea. Love the light on the buildings.
    I also appreciate these moments of perfect silence which become all too rare, even in the country. I hope that your Christmas was as beautiful as this quiet walk that you capture so well with your unique poetic way.

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  9. I love the city on Christmas! Mr. H and I went for a stroll Christmas afternoon down our street, which is always busy. There were quite a few people out by then, since they were stir crazy like us—and for once, the sun was shining!

    But it definitely wasn’t anywhere near the usual chaos. And we enjoyed a quiet walk, taking in all the closed stores and calm streets.

    I giggled at the image of the person in their jammies and Santa hat. When I was hiking on Christmas Eve, I passed a partially dressed Santa as well. He was kind of grumpy though…I tried smiling at him and I got nothing. 😉

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  10. Well observed as always Andrea. Sadly we can’t assume that everybody is enjoying their Christmas, or indeed have a roof over their heads. It is a lousy time of year for some.

    But yes, I always go for a long run on the afternoon of Christmas Day and it’s as if I have the Island to myself. There’s no other day quite like it. Happy Christmas.

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    • Thanks Roy, yes that sense of quiet isn’t so good for some, I know that some people rely on things being open to avoid that sense of isolation, but at the same time I think it’s sad that it’s now so rare to get this kind of peace when most things are shut.

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  11. I haven’t seen the streets so desolate like that on Christmas Day since I was a little girl. Thank you for immersing me in that solitude with you for a short while … with your poetry and lovely photos.

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  12. A very wonderful reading (and appreciation) of silence, Andrea. Weirdly, I was thinking some of the same things when I was unable to sleep this morning and got up to write. I listened to the sounds of breathing people and the house itself inhaling and exhaling. It all felt rather framed; me within a box, but with other people respirating and the box itself alive and respirating. Unlike in times past, I was comfortable with the stasis and hush; sometimes, silence makes me nervous, I guess in an anticipatory way, although I’ve come to the realization I do like being alone (at least sometimes)—and, furthermore, that it’s okay to like being alone or to seek solitude.

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    • Thanks Leigh, I love that image of you writing in the early hours with other people breathing. I’m an only child so I think I’ve always been comfortable with solitude (though at the same time I have also often felt lonely) – so much of writing is solitude, but it’s good to have a writing community to help you feel less alone 🙂

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  13. I love the quiet periods, Andrea … even relish them. So many people go crazy before Christmas, scurrying about, buying too much, in their desperation to create a “perfect day”, which so often falls short of their Disney-style dream. In fact, they often end up shouting at each other, or making themselves ill with over-indulgence.
    Oh, cynic me D: Peace and goodwill to all humankind, and all that…
    Your post describes my idea of perfect peace so well 🙂

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  14. Beautifully written and capturing that magical hush of a quiet world, so rare these days. Lovely to share it with you on your walk. We often travel back on Christmas Day as we celebrate in Christmas Eve and it’s a gift, motorways with just a scattering of cars, no lorries, no holdups. bliss.

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  15. Hope you had a lovely Christmas day, Andrea. I too love when the town is quiet. It means that those who work in catering business can stay at home with their families. It is probably the only holiday when they have that opportunity. Your photographs of the sun-lit streets are so beautiful. I think that the seagull is wondering where are all the people gone.

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  16. Pingback: Hush — Harvesting Hecate — С любовью к людям!

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