A Tale of Silence

By Franci McMahon

I’d be willing to bet the ranch there isn’t one writer out there who hasn’t yearned for more time alone to write. Sometimes we think we have silence. It is so uncivil to notice or complain about those small sounds of another person in the house, the water running in the kitchen sink, soft music a couple of rooms away, a cough or sneeze. Even the air moves in a different way when there is someone else in your living space.


There are days that the silence holds an unbelievable amount of racket no matter how long I sit unmoving. The amount of silence I relish is something another person may find intolerable. The partner brushes fingertips across the panels of the closed door, to whisper, “You’re so quiet in there. Are you okay?”


I applied to Hedgebrook, a writing retreat for women on an island in Puget Sound, in search of that solitude. This place of author bliss, imagined just for women writers, has six little cedar cottages spaced privately throughout the woods. After spending the day alone with our writing project we all troop down to the farmhouse with our Red Riding Hood baskets and a flashlight. The Hedgebrook chef prepares for us a superb and organic meal. Replete, we retire to the lounge where we may read from our pearls of words to each other and gently comment on our sister’s works. I stayed a month and have never felt so pampered as a woman and honored as a writer. This gift of silence and sisterhood of the book, became my benchmark.


In an effort to recapture some of this productive time alone, I encouraged my lover of over twenty years to spend time with her friends. Ones with whom she shared other interests. My long weekends were like excursions into writing nirvana.


All of this brought our relationship into focus. We faced the fact that our lives had very separate and different joys and needs and took the plunge into divorce. Or what passes for it in the queer world.


Sometimes I listen to my border collie Mollie, breathe. She’s a quiet breather. On her breath rides the peace I seek. She shares my home and brings me solitude. I have never been a chatter on the telephone and have become grumpy about phone calls that reach beyond “Meet me at six…”

Artist: Franci McMahon

Franci McMahon

I’ve managed to scare everyone off calling me on the phone. I think I was too effective in that endeavor. I feel like I have one of those emergency only phones. I do write, but it is amazing how little of the twenty-four hour day that consumes.


image1Two and a half years into my self-chosen silence I have solitude. I am learning how solitude can also be intermittent loneliness. Yet out of that productive alone time has come White Horse in Winter, due out from Bold Strokes Books in September. The next novel is shaping into a satisfying whole story. I know I will hit my stride, but I stumble where large cracks have opened in the dry earth. My feet are finding the ground, avoiding the rocks, or, that which I like even better, picking up the rocks and examining the grain of feldspar, red iron oxide and the conglomerate of sand. Then I want to see if they can fly.

11 Responses to “A Tale of Silence”

  1. 2 aaptaker April 28, 2015 at 2:28 PM

    HI Franci, Oh boy, I know what you mean. The choice between the precious isolation of writing and the need to connect with the outside world…always a struggle, sometimes a sad one.


  2. 3 S.A. April 28, 2015 at 4:38 PM

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Franci. Sounds like you’re starting to find some balance; congrats on the new book and good luck with finding out if those rocks can fly! (And I like in WA and have never heard of Hedgebrook; just goes to show you learn something new every day!)


  3. 4 Devlyn April 29, 2015 at 12:11 AM

    Franci, sorry to hear that your search for solitude may have led to your divorce. I am glad you have found the silence you seek but remember to socialise as well. Thanks for having the courage to tell your story.
    I look forward to reading your novel in September, congratulations.


  4. 5 Lee Lynch April 29, 2015 at 4:07 AM

    Such lovely writing, Franci, again. And I love your drawings. Doesn’t time just get chipped and chipped away…


  5. 6 Sheree Greer April 29, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    Very, very nice. I often have to re-educate the people in my life about my needs as a writer. I don’t need absolute silence, but I do need to be left alone, to take frequent walks alone, and even take trips alone. Some of my best writing days have been those where it’s just me and my dog Knight, in my small house, writing and walking, walking and writing throughout the day. It’s sometimes hard to reconcile, you know with people who want to make sure you’ve eaten or make sure “you’re still alive in there.” Thank you for writing about this so eloquently. Congratulations on your upcoming publication.


  6. 7 B Conlan April 29, 2015 at 10:54 PM

    Amen, Franci. I do a little hermitage each day by going for a run with my dog or on my own in the woods…solitude seems to be a necessary element of creativity. I am enjoying your blog and look forward to your book.


  7. 8 francimcmahon April 29, 2015 at 11:00 PM

    All of yours comments are like touchstones today. I am on my annual migration to the north (like a gray goose) for the summer and so in the surroundings of a stale aired motel room in Wells, Nevada, I have all of your fresh air wafting over me. Thank you for each of your comments.


  8. 9 francimcmahon April 29, 2015 at 11:02 PM

    yours comments. really! I must turn off that auto correct thing.


  9. 10 Clifford Henderson May 10, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    Lovely blog. Honest and packed with yummy sentences.


  1. 1 A Tale of Silence | hedgebrook.org Trackback on May 7, 2015 at 2:44 PM

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