A few years ago, when I still lived in Norwich, I decided to go on a silent retreat! It was in the Autumn and it lasted from late afternoon on the Friday until Sunday lunchtime. I think I went more out of curiosity than anything.
The retreat took place in a beautiful old country house in North West Norfolk, at Great Massingham. But unfortunately the style of the interior was very reminiscent of the boarding school where I spent my term-times from the age of 11 until I was 18. I say, 'unfortunately' because I didn't much like being at boarding school and worse still, one of the punishments for minor offences was a 'silent meal' and, for slightly more serious misdemeanours, we were given a 'silent bed', which meant that we weren't allowed to talk while we were getting ready for bed or during the fifteen minutes or so before the lights were put out. For a chatterbox like me that was horrendous.
So I spent the first evening at Great Massingham silently rebelling against the 'silence'! I slept very badly and woke early so I decided to get up and take my camera and explore the grounds before breakfast.
It was October and the morning was bright and frosty and the sun coming up made the colours of the fields and hedgerows breathtakingly beautiful, especially as I'm normally a 'night owl' and therefore quite a late riser!
My early-morning explorations took me into a small area of woodland, where I cheerfully clicked away with my camera. This was well before the age of digital cameras so I ran out of film! We had been told that it was OK to speak to the nuns about anything urgent and to me this was almost a crisis. So I rather nervously knocked on the door and asked if there was anywhere I could get more film for my camera. The nun was a lovely lady and she immediately whisked me off to the nearest village in her ancient Citroen 'deux chevaux' to stock up on film.
By that time I was more than happy with the silence and in fact, when it came to Sunday lunchtime and everyone started talking, I really didn't want to. It struck me that a lot of what we say to one another is of very little consequence and that we rarely really listen in any case!
What a difference a day had made!