Enjoy the Silence

Chatham residents and visitors share their favorite places to seek solitude, from the library and the labyrinth to dune walks and nature trails

By Anne LeClaire
Photography by Marcy Ford

Ah, the celebratory sounds of summer: Laughter wafting from backyard patios, the metallic clang of lanyards striking masts, band concerts and ballgames. But there are times amid these festive sounds when we are drawn to seek silence, when we desire time to reconnect with ourselves and with nature in a way that restores and sustains us.

Even in the center of a busy summer village, there are places for contemplation and reflection: memorial gardens at local churches, paths through cemeteries, the library and labyrinth, all places that slow our pace and allow moments of stillness. The grist mill on Shattuck Place, where one can stare up at the sails and easily imagine the town 100 years past; the nearby Chatham Labyrinth where one can walk its path and experience the truth of Rilke’s words, “There is nothing so wise as a circle.”

One of the more remote places is the Wildlife Refuge on Monomoy Island, a barrier island where one can explore the dynamic landscape and walk along the southern shore edging the Atlantic or the northern coast along Nantucket Sound, losing oneself in the surroundings where one is more likely to catch sight of fox, deer and sea birds than a fellow walker, or simply, in the words of Thoreau, “gaze steadily at the ocean.”


“We walked on quite at our leisure, now on the beach, now on the bank, sitting from time to time on some damp log, maple or yellow birch, which had long followed the seas, but had now settled on the bank, that we might gaze steadily on the ocean.” 

Henry David Thoreau, excerpt from his book, “Cape Cod”



“For the last 40 years, I’ve come here when I need to study lines and to find a place where no one will be looking for me. It is completely quiet, except for the sound of leaves moving in the wind and usually I am the only one there. When I need a break, I get up and walk around the mill, which is inspirational in its own way.”

Alan Rust, artistic director of Monomoy Theatre

Eldredgelibrary_MarcyFordELDREDGE PUBLIC LIBRARY

“The hushed atmosphere of the reading and reference room offers a quiet place. Even if laughter comes from the children’s room, you still get a sense of being in a library. And there are many nooks and crannies that people gravitate to, such as the study room and the secluded alcoves upstairs.”

Amy Andreasson, assistant librarian


“I go with my head full of all the other things I have to do, all my worries and my concerns. As soon as my feet hit the ground, I feel a physical settling making me glad to be here. The mounding elevation of the cemetery offers a bird’s-eye view, which I really need to settle my own harried thinking. I find breath moving in me as I wander and read the names of the dearly departed. It transports me out of my habitual mental chatter to a place of curiosity and wonderment: Who were these people?  What lives did they leave?“

Margaret Moore, healer



“Coupling movement with beauty is a magical combination, and occasionally during a busy day at work, I will slip away and visit the Morris Island Trail. The wind, birds, beach and sound of the ocean can all be enjoyed in a peaceful setting and the visual stimulation allows me to change my focus from my busy “noisy” mind to the simplicity of nature. As I walk, I can reap the benefits of exercise and am grateful for being able to be active and breathe fresh air!”

Carol Penfield M.S., nurse practitioner and owner of Chatham Health & Swim Club



“The beauty of the Labyrinth is that it holds silence, whether experienced in solitude or with others; it offers an opportunity to deepen the stillness. It can be a meditative practice that quiets and clears the mind, opens the heart and grounds the body. Or it may just be a nice, quiet walk in the park.”

Dawn Tolley, founder of Pilgrim’s Landing



“This is one of my favorite places to walk my Brittany spaniel or to paint. There are views over the marsh east to Chatham Light and the southwest vista gives out over the salt marsh and Nantucket Sound. Every March, the ospreys come back to nest and I like to follow their progress until the fall.”

Barbara Gibson, Chatham artist



“This is my secret day-at-the-beach spot. You can always find a hollow to nestle in where no one can find you, and it raises a childlike delight in me [that] I can’t be found. And there is so much to do there. You can cut beach heather or collect bleached shells. If you time it right, when you get to the end of the path at Mill Creek, you can float out at high tide or in with the low.”

Joan Anderson, author of “A Year by the Sea” and “Stretch Marks.”