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Jack's Take: The value of quiet

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Most people, when they meet me, would guess I'm an extrovert. I'm a native Midwesterner: outwardly friendly, someone who enjoys meeting new people and doesn't think twice about striking up a conversation with someone I don't know.

In Seattle, where many people exhibit a polite reserve, I've found that if I want to make a new friend, it's on me to take the initiative. And if the person on the receiving end is responsive, I don't mind doing so. It may take a little while for said person to warm up, but if I'm patient and not in a hurry, I find this is a successful strategy. And if you're lucky enough to have more than one friend, it's tolerable,

On the other hand, while I enjoy good conversation and attending parties and large gatherings, I also can lose my mojo after standing around in loud environments with multiple conversations happening at the same time. Dance clubs, rock concerts, and Capitol Hill Block Party comes to mind. Maybe it's a function of age. Or the limits of small talk. Or inebriation. (Or lack of it.)

I do enjoy my quiet time. And as Seattle grows denser with more people and buildings, there seems to be a lack of it. There are more cars, more garbage trucks, earlier morning deliveries at my nearby co-op, and more people on the street (houseless or otherwise) screaming out into the night (and day). And of course, during our summer of protests over George Floyd's murder, there was CHOP.

I fully agree that if you don't want noise, well, don't live in a city. But I think we all need times where we can just be alone with our thoughts and not have to suffer the endless drone of a leaf blower outside our window. I am lucky that one of my hallowed spots for quiet is a large backyard shared by everyone in my condo building. I am always amazed that despite the fact there are 74 units, rarely do I see more than one other person enjoying the space, which includes an outdoor deck leading down to a grassy area that stretches one block and is surrounded by towering pine trees and flowering shrubs. There is a variety of birds, squirrels, and bunny rabbits. One night I even saw a raccoon hanging from a tree, looking down on me. Scary!

In the Hammock  

Ten years ago, I asked our condo board to buy a hammock for our backyard. Surprisingly, rarely do I find anyone using it — which is fine by me, as it's my reflective place. I bring my books back there, sometimes I read the (digital) newspaper, and late at night, I'll lay down and gaze at the stars. Yes, I still hear cars and lots of planes passing overhead (is Capitol Hill on a flight path?). But it's the pleasure of being alone with my thoughts that really feeds me while I'm in the hammock. Typically, no one interrupts my reverie; its like I'm lying in my grave, though that sounds macabre.

I think humans need solitude, time for quiet and reflection. People used to go to church for that reason (or out of guilt or obligation). I still do attend church when the desire is there. After all, I'm one of those recovering Catholics, who, when I first acknowledged liking guys, didn't feel much support from the papal powers that be. That has slowly changed, at least during the decade-long reign of the compassionate Pope Francis.

Hiking Dirty Hary's Balcony  

There are other ways of seeking quiet. Most Northwesterners find an alternative church, or source of quiet, in hiking. Last week, for the first time all summer, two friends and I bought a Discovery Pass and headed to Dirty Harry's Balcony in the Snoqualmie region. We left at 7:30 a.m. to beat the rush and nabbed the last spot in an already full parking lot.

On that gorgeous morning, we hiked in the cool, moist air and arrived at the 1,600-foot peak by mid-morning, ate half our lunch, and stumbled back down the mountain, arrive home by noon. The 4.5-mile round trip hike was challenging but not backbreaking and reminded me how lucky we are to live within comfortable driving distance of the rugged outdoors.

It also brought back memories of an earlier adventure in 2014 navigating the Enchantments, which offered an otherworldly environment of way-too-friendly mountain goats, pristine lakes, and snow-capped glaciers.

Whether in the mountains or my backyard hammock, the sounds of silence offer much-needed rest for this extroverted introvert (or introverted extrovert — I think there is a new term called ambivert, which means that while social, one gets their energy from being alone).

There is a lot of noise in the world, whether it's idle chatter, political claptrap, or blare from a television or social media channel. How do we relax, focus, dream, and find the callings that satisfy our heart's desire? I think it's in the quiet, a place where no one dares interrupt us, or disturb our train of thought. Find that place, and I think you've found true happiness.

Jack Hilovsky is an author, actor, and blogger who has made his home in Seattle since 1986. His first book, RJ, Farrah and Me: A Young Man's Gay Odyssey from the Inside Out, was published in June 2022. It can be found at Elliott Bay Book Co., Madison Books, Nook & Cranny, and University Bookstore, among other local booksellers.