Escape: Sounds of Silence


No alarm clock. No office. No cellphone. No Internet. No carpool. No car. No small talk. Does that sound like a vacation?

When I considered spending three days at Silent Stay, a retreat home nestled in the Pleasants Valley between Vacaville and the Napa Valley, my first thought was that it might be exactly what I needed. Between my full-time job as a magazine editor—scattered messily between home and office—and my other full-time job bringing up two teenage girls, things get crazy. The emails, the meetings, the appointments, the paperwork, the deadlines, the phone calls, the texts (that new iPhone I got for Christmas? Blessing and a curse!) . . . modern life doesn’t leave a lot of room for alone time or silence.

I am a manager. At home and at work, I make sure stuff happens. How it should, where it should, when it should. I tell people what to do. I handle a lot of minutiae and am a walking database for the daily, weekly, monthly schedule. How could I possibly justify stepping away for three days, meditating on a mountainside, while my work and home responsibilities flapped in the breeze?

I made it work. No, really: work. As in part of my job. I would go—and I would write about it for the magazine. That erased most of the guilt I might have felt as I scribbled a foot-long list of reminders for my daughters—get up when the alarm clock goes off, let dog out, make sure front door’s locked, stove’s off, heater’s off, before you leave—and begged carpooling favors and arranged contingency plans “in case of emergency.” The day I was leaving, I said to a co-worker, “This is the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. The timing couldn’t be worse!”

Which made me realize: There is no good time.