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WQWWC #49: Silent as a Falling Leaf, Thoughtful as a Man with a Dream

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#WQWWC #49 – Topic Silence


Do you or a loved one live in silence without the aid of hearing aides? My husband actually prefers the tranquility. I check after each sentence to make sure he heard me correctly. If he repeats it, I’m satisfied. If he’s unresponsive, I know he’s in his silent place.

Do you like silence or hate it? Has anyone ever silenced you? Have you silenced someone or something else? Can you use silence as a tool to communicate? Comedians do. Teachers should. Should a doctor? What about a silent crowd? What about animals? My cats use silence all the time. My dog rarely does.

What’s good about silence? What’s not so good? Should you keep silent about a secret? (Read this month’s story chat, “Broaching the Subject” and tell us what you think about the mom’s secret.)

Definitions and Synonyms of Silence

  1. complete absence of sound.
  2. prohibit or prevent from speaking.
  3. suppress or prevent the expression of (a gene or genetic material).

This week I am tying this post to both Sunday Stills: Leaves Have Fallen and LAPC # 174: Shapes and Designs. I am also responding to Judy’s entry to last week’s PPAC on her blog, Life Lessons.

As you read this post, please enjoy this new-to-me group, Pentatonix, that Ju-Lyn introduced to me.

Falling Leaves

“Listen …
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break free from the trees
And fall.”

Adelaide Crapsey
My front yard in California

More Leaves and Favorite Quotes for Silence

“Sometimes it’s best to stay quiet. The silence can speak volumes without ever saying a word.”


This is great advice for teachers to get more answers from more students. When I went through Math Matters training, this was called “Wait Time.” Try it! It works!

“The word ‘listen’ contains the same letters as the word ‘silent’.”

― Alfred Brendel
silently waiting for the last leaf to fall
Can you hear them falling? Like snowflakes, they fall silently to the ground.

Quiet Man with a Dream – Baldasarre Forestiere

“One of the most effective ways to learn about oneself is by taking seriously the cultures of others. It forces you to pay attention to those details of life which differentiate them from you.”

― Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language

Living near Fresno, my husband, friends, and I had many opportunities to learn from other cultures. Today I’m going to share one Sicilian immigrant’s amazing contribution bringing his culture and knowledge of growing fruit and innate knowledge of architecture and engineering to Fresno.

Underground orange tree

In 1900 at age 21, Forestiere came to the United States searching autonomy and a chance to build his own life away from his wealthy Sicilian father and six siblings.

After four years in what he considered the oppressive living conditions on the East Coast, he followed an advertisement promising a Garden of Eden in Fresno, CA. (LOL if you have ever been to Fresno in the summer.)

His 70-acre purchase appeared to have good, but scorched top soil, but a little digging turned up mostly hardpan, impossible to cultivate. Underneath, the hardpan, however, the soil could be cultivated.

How do you grow orange trees in hardpan?

Alone, for the most part, in forty years, Forestiere had plenty of time to think. His engineering skills were way ahead of his time. He quietly created this 7-acre, 65-room labyrinth masterpiece of engineering which included a solar-heated water tank for his tub, and a “Venturi Tube” ventilation system.

“Silence isn’t empty, it’s full of answers.”

Our San Joaquin Council for the Social Studies field trip to the Underground Garden

So Forestiere turned hardpan into building blocks and created the most unique home, the world had ever seen up to that time. The most prominent shapes in his design are arches, domed ceilings, and columns made from pieces of hardpan cemented together.

The hardpan could be rectangular, square, round, or roughly trapezoid, they fit together to form an esthetic wall. Trees and lattice and their shadows create additional shapes on the floor, columns hold up the underground structure.

Most of the rooms were circular or rectangular. Forestiere’s furnishings remain giving the eye even more shapes to enjoy.

The design of the building itself is known in engineering terms as a “Venturi tube” or inverted cup or cone with a hole in the top. This shape pulls fluids and air from outside into the space below providing an adequate ventilation system.

Imagine lying in bed ten to thirteen feet underground. Now imagine what sounds you would hear.

“When I say I love the silence, I’m not being entirely truthful. What I actually love are the abundant, delicate sounds that amplify when I’m silent. These curious creaks, mutters, and hums compel my imagination.”

― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes: Quotes, Thoughts, & a Little Poetry for Every Day of the Year

Carved with a hand pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow, his design included a winter and summer bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, sitting rooms, courts, a library, chapel, and a fishpond – stocked with freshly caught fish. Some of his walls were plastered and painted.

This bedroom contained a peep hole next to the candle. He could see who was coming, but they couldn’t see him. (He didn’t even need Ring.)

It is called an underground garden because many species of trees, bushes, and plants grow underground out of the harsh seasons in Fresno when summer temperatures stay over 100 degrees F or 37.7778 C for months and can drop into the 20s in the winter. Forestiere’s underground home and gardens stay at about 70 degrees F or 21.111 C most of the year.

Forestier was not silent forever. In 1923, he told a reporter from the Fresno Bee, “The visions in my mind overwhelm me.”

It takes no genius to make a straight line. Tie a string to the nose of a jackass and let him walk away. You and the jackass have made a straight line. But to make something crooked and beautiful, that is a wonderful thing.”

Baldasarre Forestiere

I admire this man’s life of silence and his many accomplishments. Forestiere died in 1946 and his trees and home live on.

Now it’s your turn.

What have you been silent about? Here’s your chance to get it out.

80 replies »

    • Thanks for reading Judy. There are not too many underground homes/works of art and feats
      of engineering as these two that we found. I can’t imagine ever being that focused, even if I were that talented. I’m glad that you shared your find, too. It’s so amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a very extraordinary post! Marsha, I take my hat off to you, I don’t think I could cope with living underground but what an amazing accomplishment. People never cease to amaze me. I love all your quotes. I’m a person who’s very comfortable with silence between people, so that I can hear the birds sing and think my thoughts, but it’s usually me who turns on the radio for a little music at the end of the day.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love how you wove your WQW topic silence into the experience of “listening” to the silence of falling leaves. In that same silence, I love hearing the crisp leaves skittering across the street with a whiff of wind, knowing that fall was either near or at its end. Love the quote about how leaves fall silently to the ground like snowflakes (like we briefly had yesterday!). Living in a rural area, I really now appreciate silence. There is a sound the wind in the pine trees makes–a soughing, that is soothing and peaceful. When I walk the dogs, I am not plugged into anything, I just like the silence! Your leaves are beautiful and I’m fascinated with Forestiere’s vision and ideas for making an oasis in Fresno (Yep, I’ve been there during many seasons–yuck). You gave me great ideas for Sunday Stills this week, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This was a wonderful post to write. Did you check out Judy’s post, too that inspired the post about the Underground Garden? It is more than awesome! Thank you for the kind and encouraging words. Remember when I wanted to give up on WQWWC because of the silence in responses. That is no longer true. It’s a pleasure to write it every week now, and I love tying into the other challenges. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. wow this was an incredible post in pictures and history with wonderful quotes and history Marsha.
    Truly a labor of love.
    I do love silence unless I can feel the energy that you can cut like a knife when someone says they’re fine and you are like… “oh really”. 🤷‍♀️🌸

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve gotten better at using silence in the classroom. When I ask a question, I’ll wait however long it takes for a student to respond. Many of them can’t stand that silence, so they will share something…

    Liked by 2 people

    • We are very quiet here in Prescott even though we are in a condo and have neighbors all around. But we also have pine trees surrounding our patio, which is our only basic view out of the house. You can see a picture of Kalev on the turquoise patio chairs on our patio for the Last Day of the Month Photo. Before we lived in the country, and sometimes, I really miss that. We had a lot of cows and some coyotes, cats and cat fights. At one time someone was raising roosters for fighting. That was super annoying. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        • It’s different when there are more than two thousand in cages in a small area. From what I understood, a doctor who owned the property but didn’t live there raised roosters to kill each other in fights. It was quite a battle to with the county and private attorneys to clear them out. We lived in an agricultural area, so we had not right to complain about animal noise, but this was an illegal activity, and on that basis, they had to cease and desist raising them there.


    • It is still family owned. He had several brothers. His younger brother lived in Fresno and I think it is his grandchildren that manage it. It is a big thing, though. It seems like a state historic park, really. It is worth the drive down. If you love history, there is a state historic park in Tulare County that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. It’s called Allensworth, and was an African Freedom Colony after the Civil War. Freed Slaves who served in the military retired there and created an amazing culture of super well-educated and self-governing Negroes. The colony dissipated when 1. the founder was run over by a motorcyclist, 2. WWI took most of the able-bodied men, 3. the railroad rerouted their train to miss the station, and 4. their irrigation water ran out and they couldn’t get electric pumps to go deeper and keep pumping, and 5. A California Supreme Court case in 1888 banned segregated schools. Col. Allensworth had wanted to start an all black college that would attract more blacks to the Freedom Colony. The parks department maintains all the buildings, and puts on events from time to time (much like Colonial Williamsburg – with people dressed and playing the parts of the settlers. – especially Juneteenth.


  5. Unbelievable space! I would would a visit there and appreciate you sharing information about it. Forestier was a genius…maybe. I think more that he exemplifies perseverance. That hard pan is no joke and to think he made something extraordinary with it….wow.

    Stellar post.

    And…I do love silence reflection as you do, but I admit I would have loved throwing, kicking or jumping through the leaves in your Cali front yard.

    And a new favorite quote…Listen has the same letters as silent. Isn’t that the truth? Always a pleasure Marsha. Donna


  6. I enjoyed reading your post, Marsha. Fascinating project by Forestiere. I’d love to visit the place. When I read or blog, I prefer silence. Thank you for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. To me, silence is both a treasured friend and dreaded foe. I have minor hearing issues (several odd frequency attenuations that make conversations and movies hard to understand unless the volume is set too high for comfort. I get along just well enough to do without a hearing aid but close captions have become my friend and I avoid crowds where understanding is often impossible for me.
    On the other hand, I love to work and think in silence. My thoughts and I are very comfortable on our own and I no longer feel the need to have external sounds, music or anything else running in the background.
    My best writing time is early morning when no one else is awake and talking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gary, thanks for your response.

      I’m sorry for your hearing loss. My husband’s is getting extreme, and hearing aides are physically uncomfortable for him or else they don’t work well. His hearing loss is in my speaking range, as is common to most men with hearing loss. Like you, he uses closed captions constantly, so I have become very used to seeing them, and feel a little sense of loss when they aren’t there!

      Earnly mornings are my husband’s best times, too. I am not an early riser, but I can work late into the night. Isn’t retirement nice?


  8. This was such an interesting read Marsha! I loved the photos and explanations and could only imagine seeing it all!
    Silence is golden at times but I don’t think I could live with a silent world for too long. Lovely to read your words Marsha, it’s been too long!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a lovely exploration of Silence.
    I am so taken by the underground gardens – your series of images allow me such a view of the place. How lovely those orange trees are. And that quote from Forestiere – priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

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Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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