“The Sound of Home” by Mark Harbison

Posted by AJ Harbison at 1:51 pm

N.B. This essay was written for this past Thanksgiving by my brother, Mark Harbison, and I thought it was so well-written and pertinent to this blog that I wanted to repost it. “The Sound of Home” is here reprinted in its entirety by permission of the author. – AJ Harbison

I always like being home. I love Biola, I love my friends there, I love Torrey, I love my major, and I wouldn’t want to go to school anywhere else—but I always like coming home. Even when nothing exciting is happening. This week, I came home knowing that there was nothing particularly fun or exciting happening this week (my family is just having a quiet dinner at home on Thanksgiving), and that I would be spending most of the week doing homework, as I have a major paper to revise, a major paper to write, Greek exercises to do, and the first two books of “Paradise Lost” to read. And yet I still woke up this morning with a smile on my face (something which is an extreme rarity for me) simply because I was physically at home instead of at school. Waking up this morning, I felt less stressed than I have in weeks, even though I still have a ton of work to get done this week.

After waking up with a smile, my expression changed to a quizzical frown as I wondered why I was so happy. I’m always happy to be at home, regardless of what’s actually going on when I’m here. Why is this? I wondered.

Unable to come up with an answer, I picked up my computer and proceeded to surf through my usual daily internet sites, concluding as always with Facebook. While on Facebook, I came across this status and comment:

“Blaire E. Hunt was woken up this morning by her sister barging in her room and jumping on her bed! Quickly followed by her mom and aunt entering her room. HOME!!!! :)
Tatyana Catalan: YES!!!!! i woke up to the vaccuum in the next room (with kitty frantic) and gershwin’s rapsody in blue blasting on the radio!!!”

This sparked my thought process and I think I finally realized what it is that I love so much about being home.

It’s the sound. I woke up this morning to a sound that I never hear at Biola, ever: silence. In my room at school, we almost always have the AC/heater running, or the window open, or there’s people running up and down the hallway outside, or yelling, or playing ping-pong—and once you actually leave the room, you can certainly forget about silence. There’s always something HAPPENING at Biola, and the evidence of that hits the ear every second of every day.

This morning, I woke up and I heard nothing. This is always what it sounds like waking up at home. If there ever are noises (which is rare), they’re quiet, or at least muffled. Even when my dog is barking, it’s less harsh than the air conditioner in Sigma 122. And throughout the whole day, even when there are noises, there’s a perpetual undercurrent of silence that’s always in the background. Even when I’m listening to music, and the television is on in the next room, and my mom is mixing something in the blender, if you listen REALLY carefully, you can hear the silence underneath it all.

This silence is, I think, the defining feature of home. It’s inherently calming. I hear the silence and I wonder how I ever felt stressed in this room, ever felt scared or sad or angry in this house, because all I can feel now is calm. Sure, I can have emotions, but underneath them all is the unmistakable calmness that everything is all right. Even when I’m extremely happy, there’s a calmness mediating it and holding it back from sheer euphoria. When I’m home, what’s just happiness at school becomes joy. What’s unbearable sorrow at school becomes a momentary (if not light) affliction.

I’ve always pictured heaven as being bright and loud—everybody singing, worshiping, dancing, discussing, hugging and loving each other. Now I’m not so sure. Of course there will be worship, and there will probably be all of those other things, too. But I think heaven, like home, will have the undercurrent of calm silence beneath it all, as all of the redeemed bask in the glorious, calm light of God’s joyous smile.

And that, of course, is my true home. 1215 Via Antibes is only a temporary reflection of that. 1215 Via Antibes probably won’t even be my home ten years from now (hopefully won’t be, I’ll even say). But for now, this is the only place that I can really hear the silence. Every once in a while I’ll catch a strain of it somewhere else—I heard it briefly at AJ and Eleanor’s, when I went there for dinner. I heard it for a few minutes in Dr. Reynolds’ office once. I heard it briefly in the Sutherland hallway when a friend hugged me and forgave me for wronging them.

But away from home, that calm silence that forces everything else to be calm only comes in snippets. It’s only at home when I can hear it all the time. I’m not sure if it’s because my home is more familiar, or because I’m more emotionally attached to my home, or because my home is a holier place than the other places I frequent.

But whatever the cause, I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter so much why it’s silent here. It just matters that it is. This sound of silence is the sound of home, and the reason I love coming home so much is because, for however brief a time, I can let everything else be quiet and just listen to it.



  1. Gravatar

    Nicole on 01.21.2010

    This essay was really great. Mark has a real talent for writing. I fully understand why it relates to your blog. What did Mark write it for? Was it just for fun? I loved how he wrote about the silence beneath everything. I understand what he is saying however I don’t get that at my mother’s house. Maybe because I never truly felt it was my home. I have felt it other places in small doses. I think it is different for everyone and shows where one is most comfortable. Just wanted to drop a note to say I thought it was great! Check out my blog I’ve been updating it!
    <3 Nicole

Leave a Comment