"You have a grand gift of silence, Watson," said he. "It makes you quite invaluable as a companion. 'Pon my word, it is a great thing for me to have someone to talk to, for my own thoughts are not over pleasant. I was wondering what I should say to this dear little woman tonight when she meets me at the door."
We rarely hear of the positive side of silence, outside of Sherlock Holmes's remark in "The Man with the Twisted Lip." Elsewhere in Watson's writings alone, we more commonly find things like "deathly silence" and silences that are broken by sudden turns of events. Even when Holmes talks about Watson's silence in the statement above, he quickly adds that he's glad Watson's not talking because he wants to talk . . . only he seems to want Watson to talk, too, to get him out of his own unpleasant thoughts.
Which is because silence can be either one of two things . . . a peaceful signal of uneventful times . . . or the dread warning that something is so horribly wrong that no sound can be made. "It's too quiet!' and "the silent treatment" are just a couple of common phrases of the latter. Sometimes we are silent because we have nothing to say, but sometimes the same silence occurs because we can't say what's foremost on our minds. Except perhaps in the company of a friend like Watson.
And since writing an ongoing and frequent blog on Sherlock Holmes requires a lot of stream-of-consciousness, say-whatever's-on-your-mind rambling, if you can't write what's on your mind and that subject won't leave your mind, well, you can't write.
Which is the position I found myself in this week, as I tried to work out the chances that I was still going to be able to go to the Scintillation of Scions in June against some oppositional forces of circumstance, to put it all too vaguely. Especially after having sacrificed my attendance of the ever-near 221B Con this year, for that later event. My thoughts, as Holmes's in TWIS, were not overly pleasant.
After all that, I am down to not attending the Scintillation or 221B Con this year, which is really bad when one is blogging about Sherlock Holmes on a regular basis. Not that I need the material so much as the actual contact with other Sherlockians. The written word only gets one so far, and a friendly moment or two in person can make a big difference down the line when one or two of those words misfire, as they are apt to do now and then. Because the silent moments that follow can be filled with such dreary thoughts . . . .
"God help us!" said Holmes, after a long silence. "Why does Fate play such tricks with poor helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter's words, and say: There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes."
Silence is a tricky thing, and sometimes not the grand gift at all.