(Photo: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/21/upshot/coronavirus-deaths-by-country.html)
I walked out the front door early this morning. Outside there is always the very faint hum from the two lane highway about a mile from our home. Today, the first day of the stay at home order in Idaho, it was quiet, the sound of the cars and trucks missing.
There is an ice skating rink in Madrid, the Palacio de Hielo. A reviewer wrote that it is, “always crowded, filled with people, mostly young people, who come here to skate go to the cinemas, to play all kinds of games…” This week the cold temperature of the skating rink has made it a place to keep the bodies, as the morgues are full. The sounds of the crowds are missing now.
The New York Times has a chart, updated daily. It shows that deaths are doubling in America every three days. I think, oh, not good. Then I stop. What does it mean for one thousand, the number today, to double like that for just a few days? I count it on my fingers. A thousand becomes a hundred thousand quickly. I am quiet, not thinking, just staring out the window. A hundred thousand voices, quieted.
Last month the restaurants had people in them. In one corner a young couple on a date. At another table a family, with kids noisily eating. A businessman meeting two others, details worked out. Now, the chairs are placed upside down on the tables, the only sound the hum of the furnace fan. Otherwise, quiet.
At the rest home the common area and dining room is empty. Everyone is in their room, not allowed to go down the hall to join, to play a game, to eat together. All quiet.
I write this, sitting in my living room. It is quiet. There is only the sound of the fireplace, as it flickers.
The title of this post is taken from Rachel Carson’s famous book of many years ago. Oh, yes, the birdsong at our home is still less than it used to be, as I reported to you last year. Much quieter. They call it the Sixth Great Extinction, don’t they? That other problem…




  1. Thank you, Dennis. I love your writing. Please keep sending these. I’ve been trying to discard and simplify my belongings and came across a box of my writing and poetry from high school and college. Each piece, slowly read and sometimes reread before putting it down, brings back all those poignant memories gathered along the path of life. Writing has always been instrumental in analyzing my feelings; I feel it’s the same for you and we’re benefiting from it. Wishing Rich and I could have had more time with you and Karen here in Napa Valley, but we are looking forward to seeing you at our cabin this summer.

  2. Hi, Susan,
    Sounds like a wealth of material for you to be inspired by in that box!
    Be well, Dennis

  3. We are situated next to Joint Base Lewis McChord, where it’s common to hear artillery fire and lots of Air Force planes taking off and landing…and now, complete silence. No more sirens on the busy avenue. I can finally hear the frogs croaking in the little stream along my walk; I hear for the first time, the sound of children at home , playing with each other and bicycling with their parents, now the teachers. The fear in the community is subsiding into a deep quiet, and I find it opportune to do more practice. I find the heart of Tara, opening up with a soft downy space in which to rest. All is well.

  4. Thank you so much, Patti. I really needed to read your last two sentences. Tara is a wonderful image to hold in our minds right now. May your work deepen and may your insights help others who are fearful in these times.

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