Plain, old-fashioned peace and quiet.
I don't mean the sensory-deprivation type of quiet, where people with more money than sense lay in a sealed barrel of water in complete silence and darkness. Whilst I am not easily frightened, that seems to me that it would be creepy.
No, I mean the kind of quiet that comes from sitting on the front porch on a spring evening, or drowsing on a river bank, or wandering down a country road.
I am fully aware that the lack of quiet in my life is most times self-inflicted. I can turn off the television at home, the scanner and radio in my car, my telephone.
I can't turn off my coworkers, or the people who always seem to be more intent than I am on getting somewhere, but I'm working on it.
But like a recovering heroin addict, I have a monkey on my back. I can't seem to get away from the noise, even when I truly try.
Take, for example, a recent afternoon when my pocket began ringing just before finding the friend with whom I hoped to share lunch (but not a quiet lunch-there was nothing quiet about the restaurant, but that's okay, since we were both working and we both tend to be noisy).
I was one of three or four similarly burdened folks who had the courtesy to step outside for our telephone calls. Others yapped away at their tables, blissfully ignoring their companions and those around their tables.
Still, of the four of us who went outside, only two attempted to be discreet. The other folks yelled into their phones with such vigor I wondered why they didn't save their telephone bill and shout to whomever they were speaking. I'm sure they could have been heard a mile or so away.
Dashing back to the parking lot, I jumped into my car (just as a pickup with glass-pack mufflers rumbled past) and realized too late I hadn't turned the radio down when I killed the ignition before.
The talk-show host was yelling about something (which isn't unusual, but is often amusing) and caught me a bit off-guard.
Back out into traffic, I wondered what in the world was so important or offensive that seemingly half of Elizabethtown's drivers had to lean on their carhorns.
Maybe they were trying to get the attention of the young man next to me at the stoplight, whose music drowned out the aforementioned yelling talk show host.
Still hoping to find something to eat, and not having time to actually sit down in a bustling restaurant for a cacaphonous lunch, I pulled through the drive-up window of a fast food place.
The young lady's voice was sweet, but loud, even over the noises of a nearby construction crew. As she handed me my lunch, I heard a customer inside the restaurant yelling about something, to the point he had upset a small child, who added her own dismay to the clamor.
Figuring if I had to eat in my car, the least I could do was stop somewhere, I drove to one of my favorite hiding places. At least there one could find a modicum of nice, soft, noise, if not true quiet.
Regrettably, a young couple who I thought would be in school at that time of day had had the same thought, only they wanted a quiet place to "talk"-which means anything but quiet or talking when teenagers are caught up in the midst of the tears, shouts, accusations and entreaties that make up the average adolescent soap opera.
I finally gave up, and settled down near a tree that I hoped would not play music, argue with its neighbors, or attempt to involve me in a conversation.
With nary a word to anyone, I wolfed down my sandwiches and headed back to my car in disgust as a haggard-looking mother my age unloaded about a dozen sugar-laced screaming children out of the back of a large, loud SUV.
Thinking I could have a quiet walk through an old cemetery, I pulled up to the gate to find a roofing crew at work nearby, almost loud enough to wake the dead.
I gave up.
Back at the office, there was the usual uproar of telephones, police scanners, computer sounds, sounds made by people whose computers don't work, printers, and the various devices that, in theory, make the computers work more efficiently.
My cell phone rang again, and while finishing that call, I discovered, quite by accident, that even my camera has the ability to make noises.
I fully realize we have to have sounds to survive. A car horn can save a life. Telephones allow us to relay ideas, to find information, to tell people we love them. Speaking is considered a higher form of communication, and separates us from the animals.
Our higher intellect allows us to think, to build, to create, to improve-and all these activities make a certain amount of noise, as do the things we build, create and improve.
Even libraries are noisy now, but for a different reason, and that's a column for another day.
But for whatever reason, we have devalued quiet, and become too noisy of a society.
There is a reason the greatest thinkers of our society, whether you agree with them or not, spent time alone, far from other folks. Quiet helps the thought processes.
And while I don't by any means place myself amongst those august few-there are even those who would say I need to practice my thinking a little more, anyway-I would love to find a few minutes of peace and quiet somewhere.
It recharges the soul.
If I can find that spot, I can assure you, I'll turn off the telephone, the radio, and anything else that jars all simpler, softer sounds out of place.
At least for a little while. Too much quiet makes me worry what I'm missing.