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When is a Minute’s Silence Not a Minute of Silence?

April 26, 2016

poppy290Nothing is ever silent. Ever. Except perhaps in space but I have no point of reference for that experience and so have no capacity to comment. There can be a stillness, but never silence. There is that moment that sluices into seconds and the feeling of a lifetime of ages when a zealot of some stripe or another initiates his bomb. The crump resonates through every part of you and welds a connection of gazes as your eyes instantly lock on the eyes of others and you all wonder together if you are next.
You hear nothing but feel everything that is decent and right shiver and collapse in that stillness. Sounds then wake and drift in behind the thudding of the blood in your ears, and your thoughts start to shift from your own selfish hide to wonder at those who have been unfortunate enough to have been caught up in the periphery of that sound. This is where my thoughts went on Monday morning as we stood in the Tanunda half dawn and were called to a minute of silence. A minute to reflect, drift off, pay respect, wonder at the madness of other moments of stillness. That moment of stillness when you hear a pin strike into an empty chamber and realise it’s not over. Not yet. A moment of stillness after the first crackle of gunfire. (The moment of stillness as the dust settled around Ryan’s car). The moment that claws your eyes into the sky behind the dust of a bomb.   The vacuum of silence after metal has fizzed past your head. All so much sound that floods your heart. And then into the silence of that bowed head, morning minute came the warbling disrespect of quarrelling magpies, a pause then the chatter of a wagtail. A pair of galahs nattered at the dawn before they launched out of the gums above us and screeched into top gear as they fled up the street like so many wayward school boys. Cockatoos cackled and choked, as if expressing the need to not be left out. It made me smile as I recalled the sound of currawongs I heard on TV while overseas once, on an operation in which I was feeling especially fragile (it happened). Those currawongs made me realise how much I appreciated what we have here, and that it was all worth fighting for. The minute dragged on in that garden, filled with an orchestra of disrespectful birdsong that was reverent and sweet and a summation of all that is special about our home. I drifted off and imagined that song connecting men in their trenches with the bush and skies of home. The sergeant called the end of the salute and our own noise soon started to fill the day. It was the noisiest minute of silence I have heard in a while and I am glad I was there to hear it.

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