When we lived in rural British Columbia, there were winter nights that were so crisp, cold, and clear that the silence made sounds. It cracked and crackled. Things sounded so much closer in the cold. At the farm, trains went by 2 kilometres away, but in the cold, clear night they were just outside.
We had a dog, a wonderful German Shepherd and on those nights she would often become agitated wanting out and barking at the mountains and sky. I listened, but could not hear what she heard. Even though there were new sounds for me, there were likely others that escaped me and our dog heard them.
I think R. S. Thomas captured this sound of silence and prayer brilliantly. It reaches out and we hear something even when we do not hear actual sounds and see the people speaking to us. We feel them and the world at large. We are in concert and communion with the other – sentient and non-sentient – even though we cannot see them, sharing a prayer in that silence. Laying there, words come to us out of silence finding their way from heart to heart to heart.
There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.