'...when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips,
And sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, On Talking
The phone rings and I jump as the electronic jingle penetrates the silence in the room. For two weeks and two days I've been on my own in the little house up in the olive groves and living mostly in silence.
Sometimes, in England, I've been tempted to put the television on for company, but Italian TV is terrible, so I keep it off. The nights are cold and dark, so I haven't been going down to the piazza much. I've been trying to make the most of solitude to work.
Living in silence is odd. You become very conscious of extraneous sound - a builder yelling from scaffolding across the valley, the cat crunching its biscuits outside the door, a siren screaming along the autostrada far below, a leaf clattering down through the chestnut tree. And in the background there's a strange roar like the hum of a big city, but which I know is the sea, tumbling in and out along the coastline, 10 kilometres away.
It struck me that we're so surrounded by sounds that we spend much of our time shutting them out - the blah and blare of activities around us - it was a week before I started really listening. In the first few days, I talked to myself to fill the gap. Now I'm quite happy.
I haven't even had the CD player on very often. Some people find it helps them to write, but I can't write with music on, or a lot of background noise - I need to be able to hear the words in my head.
Neil is due back sometime tomorrow. Have I managed to write anything? Not as much as I should have done - I'm the Queen of Procrastinators, but the silence has been restful. I don't think you realise just how noisy the world around us is until you can shut it out and listen to its absence.