Growing up, there were innumerable hours in which my mother, father, and I spent together in silence. Some of my fondest memories were during these quiet moments: winter nights sitting in the living room, listening to the soft crackle of fire in the cast-iron stove while we each read our individual book; driving in awe through the narrow, winding roads in Switzerland's Black Forest; resting on the front lawn after a day of working around the house, watching the sun set over Buffalo in the distance.
As an only child, I spent a lot of time by myself either playing in the woods that surrounds my childhood home, or in my head while writing stories. I felt calm in these places, in the magical worlds I created.
Manhattan is conducive to many things: meeting the "right" people, endless options of entertainment and food, and tons of inspiration that come in the form of people, places and things.
But it's difficult to find (free) peaceful places here; it really is the city that never sleeps.
When some theater friends from Rattlestick invited Brian and me to visit them in Woodstock, NY a few weekends ago, I was eager to get in a rent-a-car and go. For three days straight, in a cabin they rented, birch and pine, and mountains surrounded us. We did nothing but read, hike, make fires, and talk.
It. Was. Heaven.
When we got back to the city, I tried to recapture that isolated feeling. I walked to Central Park, specifically the "Woodland" area therein, and purposefully got lost. It's a big park, I thought. Maybe I could find some place deep inside where no one ever goes.
Although I did get lost, I didn't find the silence I was hoping for. There were always passersby chatting, or a fire trucks screaming, or taxis honking
After spending an hour finding my way back to our apartment on the Upper West Side, I drew myself a bath. In the tub I dunked my ears underwater and found what I had been craving.
It was a bit artificial, and it wasn't really silent silence (underwater silence resounds with high-pitched notes in the vibrations of the water), but it got the job done.
I called Eden afterward. My mother told me about the restorations she's been doing to the house.
"I want to create a writer's retreat," she said.
She explained in great detail all the things she envisions for her home, her sanctuary: a table and chair set beneath an arbor of wisteria in the white-picket fence garden in the backyard, a large gazebo on the hill that overlooks the creek beyond that. Like me, she fantasizes about the day when her life will slow down and once again be filled with more tranquility.
We agreed that I would come home several weeks this winter; the snow-laden land will be conducive to my writing.
When we hung up, I thought, New York is the city of my dreams. But Eden will always be the silence I call, "home."
Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to
or view her Web site at www.SarahTSchwab.com