Listen to the Silence
If you grew up in the heart of a bustling city, your first night at Oyster Bay Harbour can be quite unsettling. Not only are the sounds of the city gone, even the ambient sounds vanish and the sounds that keep you awake may be the distant rumbling of your own stomach. That was exactly what happened in our case, when my wife and I were invited to experience a Day in the Life of Oyster Bay Harbour. Now mind you, we live on Amelia Island, literally at a stone’s throw from the beach where normal life is, well…beachy. Not too much noise besides an occasional fire engine on its way to an emergency or a group of Harley fans descending on a nearby beach bar for a Sunday afternoon of live music.
Yet I know quite a few locals who after a lifetime of living in Fernandina Beach moved to Oyster Bay Harbour in recent years because life was becoming too hectic “on the island”. At first a statement like that may sound a tad ridiculous but honestly, until you have experienced the peace and quiet at 6:05 am in the marina at Oyster Bay Yacht Club, you have not experienced mesmerizing silence as yoga of the mind.
Birds somewhere in the trees and the marshes are singing and actually produce a vague melody, not just an annoying tweet or chirp. The first cup of coffee with the porch doors open and the sun’s warm colors reluctantly dancing into the living room does not allow for a newspaper or TV News in the background. It feels sacrilegious as my eyes wander over the marshes and the marina. This must have been how the Middle Ages felt, before noises from electrically driven tools and appliances created the first ambient omnipresent zoom. I try to separate the zoom of a refrigerator or the rumble of a pool pump from the sounds of nature and a realize that I’m actually listening to silence.
Looking to the north the Georgia coastline slowly emerges out of the morning mist and I wonder how times were back in the early 1800s when this area of the world was ruled by pirates, privateers and buccaneers, trading and smuggling between to new United States and the old world with Spain ruling Florida. Local historian Kevin McCarthy, who published in 1992 the Book Lover’s Guide to Florida says there were some 300 sailboats anchored in those waters out there, all trading and smuggling.
Later in the morning my wife announces the wish to go to a nearby Target and purchase a floorstanding fan for the next night. As a proud mother of six she learned early on that fans are a mother’s friend. She uses it to block sounds out coming into the bedroom. My mother, with a proud French heritage, gave birth to 5 sons, and used good quality French wine as her “weapon” of choice against noise overload. Silence requires a little help from nature and nature takes on a whole other meaning here in Oyster Bay Harbour. The silence here is organized and appreciated. I understand the locals that moved away from Amelia Island to Oyster Bay in recent years. They grew up in a time that noise ordinances were not needed, when hustle and bustle meant that it was market day or the week before shrimpfestival; when noise meant that it would end at midnight and the town would return to normal.
People who work on island or in Jacksonville know what it means to be blessed with the opportunity to return every evening to the quiet peace of Oyster Bay Harbour. It’s only a 10 minutes drive to my home near the beach, but I’m basking in the silence as the birds around me sing sonatas and arias of a brandnew day.