I ask, “Where shall we go for dinner?” while my husband searches for a favorite bottle of wine from the wine cooler. But the question is only a formality. We each know we will choose the usual restaurant a mile down the street from our home. We’ve been there before…many times. We like the food, the noisy clientele, the atmosphere. We take the short drive to the restaurant overflowing with early diners engaged in loud conversation. We catch the eye of the bartender and immediately find two seats at the bar. It has become a ritual. He asks if he should open the bottle for us. Yes, of course. He hands us the menu knowing full well that we don’t need it. But I read it from appetizers all the way through the desserts listed, just for fun. I choose the same thing as always. My husband opts for his traditional choice of platter which we both share. We toast to gratitude as we take our first sip of wine. We nod in approval. The vineyard and vintage has been tried and tested by our palates over the years. It is full bodied, with a spicy bouquet and rich in tears that cling to the side of the glass. It is hearty and intense, with a finish that is dry yet smooth, all at once. The first glass of wine goes down quickly among talk of work and events that transpire through the day. My husband pours more wine into the glasses. The conversation shifts from our individual day to a song I heard on the radio. We talk of nostalgia, of past and present. We talk of our children and families. We talk of science, life on other planets and the future of humanity. We discuss the struggle between science and religion. Do people realize the presence of God in the lives they lead? We talk of miracles. We talk of faith. We talk of love. We talk. And then, we pause. We know the deeply felt significance of the unspoken. We understand its profound power. We sit in silence. It’s the way it has always been for the past 42 years.
Forty two years ago we met in college. There were no expectations or pressure to become someone other than who we were. We came together and it just fit. There was a sense of physical and emotional intensity – heart pounding, eyes lighting up, dizzying skyrockets and roller coaster rides – drawing strength from each other. We spent hours over a cup of coffee which turned into a glass of wine as we watched the moon take over from day into night. We talked of future, of values and families. Children to be born, challenges to overcome and ladders to climb. And though we were young we were not as reticent as wine that holds back its bouquet. We quickly discovered that allowing a pause, an aeration if you will, would round out and soften any conversation like wine that is allowed to breathe. In such pauses, we felt the power and persuasion of silence. There was such authority in those moments that the act of saying nothing spoke louder than words ever could.
Now that I’m married I consider each day what it takes to stay married and in love for 42 years. I may not have the extravagant spontaneity of last-minute weekend trips or witty conversation over champagne brunches. I believe more in the sacred of the ordinary. I believe in love that is sustained by deliberate silence and the choice to see the profundity of the silence as testaments of love and commitment rather than indicators of a spark that has died—of love communicated each time we sit at a meal together, of loud, full bodied conversations that add spice to the thoughts; sometimes rich in tears of joy or sorrow. They are hearty; they are intense with a finish that is smooth. This picture of love is decidedly real, and in its own way more romantic because of the bold weight of its reality.
I trust silence. I trust its longing for wholeness, its desire to close the breach, its passion to unite what is out of reach. Think of silence in music, the pause—that empty moment, the “rest” that connects what came before and what is to come. Consider the pause that gives poetry its rhythm, or the pause in speech that throws you into the depth of what is to come next. A moment of awareness of the present, with a nod to the past and an ear turned to the future. So too, our lives need silence—amid the bright and tangy blend of vineyards that soften the intensity of ripened nuances—the predictable eloquence of pregnant pauses shakes us to our core. It feels like home without any rationale; the love that is like a storm and like the quiet calm of the night after.
Once again we raise our glasses. In the small silences of our predictable day, I choose him, and I choose love, all over again.
“Silence is never really silent.” (John Cage, composer)