In the city there were too many voices. Loud. Discordant. She couldn’t make sense of them. In the daylight their clamour ensured she walked into lamp posts, forgot appointments, drifted off at traffic lights. At night she lost sleep trying to fit all the pieces together.
So she left the city for the countryside. For an old house with a garden. To clear a space for herself. To listen. To think. In this place, where noise meant distant sheep and the occasional tractor rattling down the gravel road, she learned to listen differently. She learned to trust what she heard.
Sometimes she’d find herself kneeling in the flower beds, gripping her trowel until her fingers turned blue, unwilling to move until she knew exactly where the dead pets were buried and the ashes of a longed-for baby; until she understood the broken dreams of the couple whose initials were carved on the plane tree; saw the love letters burning in the bin; heard the children singing in the river before the sudden silence; watched the old woman at the mailbox reading her son’s last letter; saw the old man so intent on videoing his young wife with the hitchhiker that he didn’t see who put rat poison in his tea.
Friends came to visit. They expressed doubts. Perhaps a little too quiet? Not much happening? A bit dull? She marvelled that they couldn’t hear what was rising up through tree roots, creeping beneath bark, whispering inside leaves.