Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

West With the Night, Beryl Markham

There are many astounding reminiscences in Beryl Markham's memoir of her childhood in Africa and her years as an aviator there. But one of the passages I found most compelling was filled with less bombast than retellings of, say, an elephant hunt:

There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.

What are our silences saying?