Published April 9, 2023

The Silence of the Owl 

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

A Slice of Life 

Sometimes a person needs to listen to the silence. 

Our world is filled with sounds of all sorts, so much so that most of us don’t even realize it. There’s cheering and chatter, the closing of car doors, noise of traffic, televisions, ring tones of cell phones -- even our own footsteps.  

It seems there’s always the sound of a siren, dog barking in the distance, traffic starting and stopping, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, snow blowers, trains, planes, and hundreds upon hundreds of other sources of daily noise.  

Sometimes, I think, a person needs to listen to the silence. Much easier said than done. It takes some effort and some time, especially for those of us who are city dwellers. We’ve become so accustomed to hearing so many sounds every day that we don’t even pay attention to most of them.  

For many, silence, real silence, is somehow troubling. Scary even. We need sounds, from any source, and conversations too. Anything else is simply too removed from the norm, a change that is difficult to embrace. 

Spring is a good time to give it a try though. Get outdoors, away from the sounds of everyday life. One of my favorite places to listen to the quiet is the shoreline of a frozen lake. 

The silence can be deafening. Your ears strain to hear sounds that are not there. It’s weird, but pleasant too. Think of it as yoga for the mind. 

(Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakota)

There will still be occasional sounds, of course, such as the cracking of ice as spring breakup begins. Birds too. Not just delicate and pure bird songs, but the sounds made by their wingbeats. The goose flies with an easily recognizable “whoosh” of air pushed by its large wings. A sharptailed grouse flies with a snapping wingbeat followed by a glide. 

Ducks, blackbirds, doves, robins, larks, birds of all kinds, have their unique sounds in flight too. It takes silence to hear them, if you can find it. 

There’s a notable exception in the bird world though. The owl flies in silence. There is no audible sound of air rushing through or over its wings. The owl is gifted with wing feathers that do not interlock tightly, allowing air to pass through quietly so as not to alert its prey. 

Take the time to go outdoors and find a quiet place, even for a few minutes. It will be memorable, rejuvenating, and soothing. And, if you are fortunate, you’ll hear the silence of the owl. 

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