Quiet // Noise.

At night, after mini goes to sleep and micro is down for his first long leg of nighttime snoozing, the quiet that descends upon our apartment is almost alarming. Delicious and welcomed, but alarming nonetheless.

I used to prefer to work in conditions so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I would hole up on the quiet floor of Commons Library at UVA, and, later, among the soundless stacks of Georgetown University Library for hours on end, subsisting on Swedish fish and the satisfying scratch of my pen on gridded paper. I still recall the peculiarly clammy and disorienting feeling of emerging from the cosseting embrace of these quiet spaces into the expanse and movement of an early fall evening, when even the mute vibrations of leaves and limbs dancing in the breeze and casting shadows onto the buildings around them stirred and startled me.

Over the course of our relationship, Mr. Magpie has introduced and endeared to me the joy and stimulation of listening to music while working. We are rarely — if ever — without music on in our home, and I now find that the right soundtrack can cheer me through moments of distraction or frustration or exhaustion. When I am at my most serious, I like Chopin’s nocturnes, as performed by Arthur Rubenstein, or opera — especially La Traviata (I have a special attachment to one of its preludes). I can write well alongside the gravelliness and hurt of Van Morrison, the moodiness of Billie Holliday, the smoothness of Madeleine Peyroux or Stacy Kent. Basic as it may be, I love every single one of John Mayer’s albums and play them frequently. When I’m feeling soulful to angsty, I love Leon Bridges, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Lake Street Dive. The soundtracks to all Nora Ephron movies put me in a cheeky though thoughtful creative zone. Patty Griffin and The Dixie Chicks make me want to belt out my emotions in the broadest bands of color. Sometimes I get down with Willie Nelson and Randy Travis and Tim McGraw (oh, Tim!), when my heart gapes wide open and I long for the simple and unpretentious.

But now! Now my workspace is deafening. We have music, we have a large dog barking, we have a small toddler hanging onto my elbow, depressing keys and dropping her Little People into my lap while asking “what doing, mama? what doing? what doing, mama?,” we have a tiny baby wailing for milk or cooing for attention or grunting and in need of burp. We have the ambient noise of city life outside my window, the footfall of porters dropping off packages at our doorstep, the comings and goings of neighbors, the roar of the AC units, the whirrrrr of the white noise machine in our bedroom, the tinkle or jangle or electronica of toys, the nearly constant running of the washer or dryer or dishwasher or kitchen sink, the beeps and dings of our cell phones —

I can hear this as cacophony.

Or I can experience it as symphony, the fullness and richness of my life expressed in sound.

Aiming today to recognize the concinnity of it all whenever I can, and to embrace in equal measure the occasional, jarring quietude when it dares fall upon our apartment.

Post Scripts.

+Still loving the dresses from Sleeper, especially this gingham number. Would be darling for a fall event (and works with a bump for my expecting Magpies).

+Dress above would be SO precious if your mini is wearing this.

+Love this Gucci vibes tiger sweater for a little one. It’s for boys technically, but I’m thinking of ordering it for mini! So fun!

+Julia Amory is having a moment.

+Love this wicker occasional table as a way of introducing texture and beachiness into a room. (Remember my obsession with wicker?!)

+Love these oversized bow earrings! Imagine dolling up your favorite LBD with these and a dramatic red lip!

+Huge fan of anything tortoise over here, and I love these!

+I’ve written about these dozens of times, but these are such great, versatile shoes for little ones. Mini has a pair in navy that goes with a lot of her fall wardrobe, and I love that we can pair them just as easily with a dress as we can jeans and a sweater. Sporty and traditional! Love.

+Still love a poncho moment, even though they were all the rage five years ago. So cute. (Love how it’s styled on the site, with a padded headband.)

+OK, these block initial jewelry rounds are beyond. Thinking I might buy these for my sisters!

+Speaking of amazing Etsy finds: how freaking cute are these custom dog napkins?! My MIL would die.

+I think micro needs this.

+Adventures* in nursing.

+This bag is EPIC.


  1. “I can hear this as cacophony.

    Or I can experience it as symphony, the fullness and richness of my life expressed in sound.”

    What meaningful sentiment… and apropos in my current life stage (which is basically the same as yours). Viewing the chaotic, overwhelming moments as rich, full, and symphonic is the type of perspective I’ve been trying to approach life with lately. You said this beautifully.

    1. Yes, yes — I am right there with you in the sense that I am always trying, often failing…Thanks for writing in to share in this, friend!


  2. Have you tried the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack? It’s a mix of contemporary and older classical, lyric singer-songwriter, and eighties synth pop. The classical works, esp the John Adams, were my favorite—just different enough and tranquil and lush, like the film itself. If I’m writing, I have a hard time listening to anything, but if I’m doing analysis, the opposite is true (dreaded are the days I forget my headphones!). My ne plus ultra for working is the Social Network soundtrack, but it’s not very communal!

  3. I, too, used to work in pin-drop silence (thinking back to school/college) — and now I also prefer to work with music or even podcasts, depending on my mood (usually music, though). Chopin, Lake Street Dive & Willie Nelson are some areas in which we overlap 🙂 I also remembered a moment from yesterday when you mentioned Tim McGraw — I was at the dentist having my teeth cleaned when Faith Hill’s “Breathe” came on in my dentist’s office, and I was overcome with a feeling of late-90s nostalgia and lost innocence (being that it was on the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and I was thinking about that day nonstop, as I am wont to do). I definitely teared up & was glad for those shades they give you while you’re reclined!

    P.S. Yes to gridded paper! Always, always. xx

    1. So crazy how a song can do that to you!!! I can imagine that all those things — dentist office (already a site of nostalgia, weirdly? — maybe because we experience it first as children? something routine you’ve done since a wee one?), 90s music, 9/11.


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