I spent last weekend with my family an hour north of here. The fields were ripe and plump with corn, the woods lush and full. My parents were liberal with the hanging baskets this year, and sitting on the front porch surrounded with flowers felt like living in a private garden. The roar of Farwell Street was replaced by the wind in the white pines. A deep peace permeated those forty acres, and to be steeped in it was joy upon joy.
We went for a walk around church on Saturday afternoon. The grounds were deserted and the windows dark. It’s reviving to be in a place where the deepest disturbance is your own breathing, and looking up at the towering cross and trees makes you feel so small.
The worst part of weekends in the country is returning to the city. As departure from the quiet refuge approaches, my stomach knots and heart races like it does when surrounded by a big group of people. My body braces itself for the noise and commotion of city life.
But even in the city I manage to find places that ease my mind and refresh my heart, more refuges with trees and silence and locked chapels. A few months ago I discovered a trail that led up the hill behind our apartment. As I ascend from the valley and distance myself from downtown life I find myself in a sleepy neighborhood, where the street leads to an old cemetery and tiny, forgotten chapel. Of all the times I’ve been here I’ve only seen a handful of other people. It’s just a silent pocket in the midst of a busy city, a beautiful and desolate place where deeper thoughts can grow, where you can’t help but remember that there’s so much more to life than the here and now.
I’m also fond of Buffington Park, a gem with the same refreshing spirit where I’ve spent many a day. People don’t venture here either, even though lying under the leafy dome of trees undisturbed is absolutely enchanting. One can spend an entire uninterrupted day here reading or dreaming or simply observing the sun make its way across the sky. Buffington Park is especially meaningful in that I’ve spent countless hours here with my best friend. We even got married in the quiet chapel on the grounds.
To me, there’s no better way to start a morning than to watch the dew shine in a place nobody else wants to touch, and I cherish silent, underappreciated places now more than ever. I never really know what I’ll find when I cut out the noise. Sometimes it’s deep peace, sometimes it’s a hard fact I’ve been evading. Sometimes it’s the realization that I should breathe deeper and think more before I speak. Sometimes it’s remembering that life’s troubles really are not as big as they appear, and that no matter what, I have a God who loves me for me.
But whatever the thoughts are, I’m grateful for silence in a loud world, for peace amongst the storms, and for parks with quiet chapels.