Sounds of Silence in a ‘Heatwave’

The content of this post has been swirling around in my thoughts for the past three days so expect a bit of a ‘splat’ of a post as all these ideas and activities tumble on to the screen!

First, has to to be the weather, sets the scene and all that!  It’s official: Wednesday was the hottest July day in the UK ‘since records began’.  It was sweltering.  I had a midday cycle ride home – fine while the air was moving around me as I peddled but when I stopped phew was I glowing (ladies glow they don’t sweat!).  We’ve tested the wisdom of staying cool indoors by keeping all windows and curtains shut on hot days.  It does work.  The back of our house faces southwest, the little garden was super-heated when I arrived home but once indoors the temperature was noticeably lower.  I spent the afternoon in my cool, dark sitting room watching the players at Wimbledon sweating out their matches.

As you can imagine Wednesday night into Thursday was pretty warm but thankfully I slept well apart from being woken at 2am by a noise I couldn’t immediately identify.  It was a repetitive sound made by an animal,  a kind of bark but definitely not a dog.  Before drifting back to sleep I concluded it must be a fox. Dear old Google came to my rescue in the morning when I found this recording that confirmed I had been listening to a fox.  I’ve lived on this large 1970’s housing estate for over 25 years.  The houses, schools and shops were built on farmland and it is still only a 15 minute walk to reach open farmland so we do occasionally see rural wildlife here – a stray pheasant in our garden a few summers ago, a fox padding up the middle of our snow covered road one cold winter, and an owl hooting from nearby trees.

Later on Thursday I sat at my sewing machine and as I got into the rhythm of a simple quilting pattern I reflected on sounds.

Using the walking foot to machine this simple echo pattern across the patchwork pattern.

From thinking about that peculiar bark of the fox to the emotions being stirred in me by the plink of the basting pins being dropped into the plastic tub by my side (why was that sound making me so happy?). Unusually I’d chosen to sew without adding any additional noise to my surroundings.  We are six weeks into having an extension built to the front of the house.  The builders have all been great BUT they do like to accompany the sounds of their tools and machinery with the music and chat of a radio station at high volume!  This week there has been a lull in building activity and yesterday apart from a, very quiet, window fitter the house and it’s noises were my own 🙂 ‘Silence’ was a good thing.  Time to let thoughts flow uninterrupted and an opportunity to listen.  A much cooler day (at least 10ºC lower than Wednesday) meant doors and windows could be left open – daytime sounds of birds, children playing out at the local school, cars and buses passing by provided a background to the gentle purr of my newly serviced sewing machine (it’s working beautifully!).  Not silence by any means, but familiar and peaceful.


Oh!  To answer my own question: Why did the sound of the basting pins plinking into the plastic tub make me feel happy? It took me a while to realise, it was the same sound that the little plastic discs made as they slid into the holder of the game of Connect Four I used to play with the children! Happy memories!

Moving on.  A tip for resolving machine tension and stitching problems.  Did you know that the way thread is wound onto a reel determines how it should feed into a sewing machine?

Thread wound onto a reel in a cross-weave fashion is designed to feed off the top of the reel.  It should be put on to the horizontal spool of a machine or threaded through a
Thread wound onto a reel in a cross-weave fashion is designed to feed off the top of the reel. It should be put on to the horizontal spool of a machine or be threaded through a cone holder.
Thread wound onto a reel in a linear fashion is designed to feed off sideways and therefore should be put on the vertical spool of a machine.
Thread wound onto a reel in a linear fashion is designed to feed off sideways and therefore should be put on the vertical spool of a machine.

And finally, as American Independence Day approaches I’d like to recommend a thoughtful post by Melanie of ‘Cat Bird Studio’ and ‘Our View From Iowa’ looking at independence and interdependence.  This resonated with me as I find our Western obsession with the rights of the individual is becoming increasingly destructive to relationships and community. Here is another quote from the book I’m reading by Paul E. Miller, ‘A Loving Life In a World of Broken Relationships’.  (He is American but when I read ‘America’ in this paragraph I think ‘Western World’) :

In America, where we have incredible abundance, we are becoming increasingly cranky.  Our touchiness is fed by an outlook on life that…enshrines the self.  When feeling happy is the goal, we always end up testy because life conspires against us.

Miller concludes:

But when love is the goal, we reap joy because no one can steal love… The cure for a cranky soul begins by repenting, by realizing that my moodiness is a demand that my life have a certain shape.  Surrendering to the life that my Father has given me always puts me under the shelter of his wings.  That leaves me whole again, and surprisingly cheerful.

Loving does involve submitting self and putting others first.  It has to be intentional and we have to carry on loving even when things ‘aren’t fair’ and the ‘what about me’ thoughts start to push to the fore.  I’m not against being happy 🙂 but seeking happiness for it’s own sake will beget selfishness and, ironically, an unhappy self-destruction through resentment and bitterness as happiness is thwarted by the conspirings of life and the actions of other people seeking their own happiness!

As a British citizen I don’t bear a grudge  😉 so I do wish all American readers a very joyful and unifying Independence Day!


9 thoughts on “Sounds of Silence in a ‘Heatwave’

  1. Such a delightful post, Allison! Loved reading about your hearing the fox. Thanks also for sharing the little lesson on thread spools…. I will be mindful of that from now on. And your thoughts on happiness. Too true!

  2. Sometimes I like silence and sometimes I do
    like background noise , but when I want it and not when others do !
    I do think that sometimes people are too preoccupied with their own individual rights and don’t think of the greater good , something we were always taught to remember

    • Yes! Sometimes there is such an emphasis on the individual that little time is given to declaring the good that comes from taking responsibilities that benefit others. I guess 4th July is a suitable day for being thankful for responsibilities as well as rights.

  3. nice post Allison. Good tip about thread; I have one of those thread stands and find that it works best for everything I use. Now that I have read your tip I will have to go and examine my threads !
    I personally decided a long time ago that I will strive for contentment rather than happiness. Without going into a whole essay, I’ll explain my reasoning just by saying that to me contentment comes from within whereas happiness is more externally generated.

    • Some would argue that being content is a passive state, lacking ambition. Actually it takes a lot of discipline. In his encouraging letter to the Philippians Paul writes, ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances’ (Chap 4 v11-13). Paul says his contentment came from doing everything through Christ ‘who gives me strength’. It’s much easier being around content people than those who are never satisfied!

  4. I loved that quote by Paul Miller. Thank you for sharing it. As an American I do think we often focus too much on our rights and freedoms, and we often get extremely cranky about it! Even in religion we sometimes focus on becoming better and more godly instead of on submitting to God’s will for our lives. Such a good reminder. Thank you!

    • I’m glad you found the quote helpful. It is so easy to get swept along by the culture around us. It takes a bit of effort to stand back and regain the God perspective doesn’t it?

  5. What a lovely post. There is something about believing we have a right to feel a certain way, or in my case, to a bit of silence. But it’s the learning to appreciate the moment and find contentment amongst the less than perfect that is hard but necessary for contentment.


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