“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?” Perhaps the more important question is how can we avoid listening?


While it may be the season for sleigh bells and Christmas carols and the ho-ho’s of holiday Santas, we have all experienced the constant barrage of holiday sounds—the voices of too many people in a crowded mall, the honking horns of tired, short-tempered shoppers who just want to get home, and the piped music meant to encourage holiday spending—that more often contributes to stress and overwhelm than to a true enjoyment of the season.


In the noise of 21st century technology, it is important for us to remember the need for silence—for our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. Silence is important to the health of our nervous systems.  Were you ever in a hospital nursery or around a newborn baby?  Any sudden loud noise triggers the infant’s startle reflex.  The baby’s arms and legs thrust out as if to push away the offending noise, the eyes go wide to take in the impending danger, and the infant often wails an alert.


Our arms and legs may not go into contortions, but the unending onslaught of noise from our vehicles, appliances, entertainment, and computers, definitely affects our nervous system. Studies have shown that continuous noise assault can cause nausea, headaches, and sleeplessness. No wonder, then, that so many of us get sick at the holiday season.


In recent years, by the time I sit down next to our tree to unwrap gifts with my husband and three sons on Christmas morning, I am heartily sick of Christmas music, whether religious, classical, or popular. One more time of hearing how I know Dasher and Dancer, and I am tempted to dash something at the CD player!  For not only have I been hearing holiday music for weeks in every store I walk into, whether for groceries, prescriptions, or Christmas gifts, but I have heard it in gas stations while I pump gas, on the elevator while going to a doctor’s appointment, and on one television ad after another.


I love music and the moods and memories it can evoke, but I also love—and value—silence. And at this time of year, with its hectic schedules, unending to-do lists, and constant partying, silence keeps me sane.


Here, in the foothills of the Catskills, it is, after all, nature’s season of silence. The songbirds have wisely headed south for the winter. The buzz of bees in the garden, the chirps of crickets in the field, and the croaking of frogs in the pond behind my house have yielded to the silent fall of snow.


From my studio window where I weave and write, working to meet deadlines, the silence of the winter landscape beckons me to leave my frantic activity and step outside where the healing balm of silence can do its work.