Is Silence a Sound?

Sevilla Travel Blog

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It must be. I treasure the ostensibly endless seconds and minutes of silence I experience in my cosy cocoon here in the centre of Sevilla.

I was resting in Savasana (a lying meditation following yoga) last week and noticed how quiet it is here in the early morning before light has been cracked, freed from the night before. My home is on the corner of a pedestrian walkway and a narrow cobbled street, just big enough for the mini bus number C5 to wind its way through. This makes for almost traffic-less living. Often in the wee hours, I smile knowingly at the clackety-clack of suitcases being wheeled past in the walkway below my terrace. There are an abundance of Pensions nearby and sleepy eyed travelers rise early to walk to the bus or tram stations, saying good-bye to a stirring Sevilla.

Barking dogs are rare here but as a matter of percentages, due to the abundance of dog-owners, the happy laugh of my canine friends is intertwined with the chatter of families and couples taking their wards out for a ‘comfort’ walk at first light. Unfortunately my front door seems to be a convenient convenience and I am ever aware of stepping out on to one of their deposits!

My home is a four-storey building with rooftop terrace but the bottom two floors are inhabited by a Spanish family. The entire centre of the building is a hollow light-well from ground floor to my terrace. Although their patio has an opaque glass roof, the sounds of extended family flutter around my home at various times of the day. I especially love Sundays when lunch is the centerpiece of generations and I can hear grandparents, uncles, cousins and dogs playing with the youngest children under the glass roof. It is like a sound vortex through the centre of my home and makes me feel even more connected to the world I have chosen here.

I sit in my bright office and eavesdrop on life around me. Occasionally I am interrupted as my Mac ‘speaks’ to me alerting me that someone in a far off land, maybe Australia or New Zealand, has tuned in and is online for a Skype chat. In the middle of the night the sound of a popping bubble from my Mac occasionally stirs me in my sleep. I am usually too dozy to get out of bed and see who is stirring elsewhere in the world.
I continue to ignore my night-sounds: the radiator next to my head gurgling and clanking, the late night cooking noises of my housemate (and often clarinet practice), and finally my alarm at 6.30. After a fifteen-minute snooze, I am out and dressed for my favourite part of the day – podcast yoga!

It’s easy to stay fit and healthy here; walking is the new ‘black’ for me. I walk everywhere. I know all the regular buskers by sound: there is an elderly Chinese man playing a strange stringed instrument, the blonde Scandinavian youth with hair like silk and violin sounds to match, the old ruffian with a cheeky grin playing polkas on the piano accordion and of course the circus performer, ‘miked up’ and enthralling crowds with his deaf-defying banter!

I have some places I love to visit in the weekend, Sundays especially. One small nameless corner bar is a friendly place to wile away afternoons, solo. I am welcomed with a ‘buenas tardes,Grrrace’ and expansive smiles. Both the chatter and the company are lively. It is a spot for reading quietly or joining in the animated banter (albeit tentatively in my broken Spanish).

Bars here have unique customs for tipping. That being said, the culture here is not to tip at all and it is almost seen as a joke. In some places there are elaborate bells, horns and hooters which shatter the hardiest of conversations when a worthy gratuity is left. Were it not all in fun, It would be embarrassing for the bestower, amounts can be as small as one or two euros.
In my miniature corner hideout, there is a metal bucket (bote) hanging high above the bar and patrons try their hand at tossing tips into the bucket, usually only cents. Some nights the place literally rings with the failed attempts as everyone tries to outdo the previous. It’s great fun and a special sound-bite memory for me.

My own Bar Monsalves has its own sound-bites, the morning breakfast routine: hissing coffee machine, over-browned tostada being scraped, matches struck to light cigarettes (!!), wooden barstools scraping over the worn wooden floorboards, ‘buenos dias’ ‘hasta mañana’ ‘adios’ ‘oyé’ and my favourite ‘-ta –uego’ (a truncated Sevillano version of hasta luego). There is a local joke: two friends greeting each other – ‘oh’ ‘eh’ ‘oo’ – meaning ‘buenos dias’ ‘¿que tal?’ ‘¿bien, y tu?. Sevillanos are famous for truncating and speeding up the wonderful Spanish language.

Last night I was taking a paseo and as usual the magnetic force pulled me to the Cathedral. It was just after dusk so I thought I would head up to the open-air rooftop bar of Hotel Eme, for the best view in all of Sevilla (so far). The bar was closed with outdoor heaters dormant and bar tables and chairs piled in a jumble. I had the place to myself: chilly, dark and silent. Down below I could see pedestrians lit by the yellow glow from ancient streetlamps but their chatter dissipated long before reaching me.

Awash with the glory of the Cathedral, I luxuriated in my private time with her. What a treat to
bask in the stillness, owning my view and smiling from the inside out. How I love my little life here in Sevilla. I am sure that silence must be a sound. It has a tangible energy just as a audible sound does. A perfect moment, suspended for minutes before I tucked it into my Golden Box and headed down to Earth again.

The sounds of Sevilla are home to me . . . what sounds are home to you?
psymeez says:
Hi Grace.

Finally I have worked this travel blog thing out and can write to you! Your life sounds magical, and exactly where you should be.

I am catching up with Simon and Shahen next week as they are visiting the Yarra Valley.

Much love and happiness to you always, Lisa (p.s) I still owe you $)
Posted on: Jan 30, 2010
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photo by: JP-NED