when you’re overcome by noise

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

October 1, 2013


The sign read “huzzah & welcome.” We walked through the gate and found ourselves in a whole new time and place—the village of Hollygrove in the 16th century. A small group of medieval singers greeted us. Knights and pirates and squires and maidens and men in kilts milled around. The sheriff led two “prisoners” by a rope, and a flower vendor passed with a basket of blooms balanced on her head.

It was my first Renaissance festival. The sea of people, the bright colors, the shop-lined lanes, and the vast entertainment options—many of which promised to be bawdy—overwhelmed me.


The aroma of barbeque hung in the air, and several people gnawed on gigantic turkey legs while others munched on whole pickles. Some spooned soup from bread bowls.

We stopped to watch the Rogue Blades comedy play. They halted their act halfway through so we could turn to watch several vendors and the “queen” parade down the “street.” We saw falcons fly and a pirate swallow fire. We tasted maple butter and chocolate fudge. We took photos of a big tree walking. A woman stood outside her shop with a sign that read, “Shiny things.”

RenFest Tree3

RenFest tree2

I only went in one shop and stroked handmade blank journals—one huge one priced at $400.

But mostly we wandered aimlessly.

My head spun and my feet hurt.

And we missed more “acts” than we caught

We stood in a long line for a piece of spinach pie only to be told it was gone by the time we got to the counter. So we opted for a plate of pita chips and hummus and immediately moved one line over to wait for apple dumplings while we ate our “supper.”

It was then the real commotion began. A stocky young man shouted obscenities at the woman who must have been next behind us in the no-spinach-left line. He spit on her, threw a bottle of water at her, clenched his fists. He obviously had special needs, and it took several to restrain him.

I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

“I think his mother is having a seizure,” my husband said. He pointed to the ground.

I’m a nurse. I should have run to her, but I stood paralyzed. I could not even see her because of the crowd. Before I could move, help arrived. Festival volunteers barked orders to stand back

Paramedics came and bent over the woman. I saw her now, folded in half beneath the counter, curled next to the wall and turned on her side. She was able to accept glucose from a tube. They loaded her on a stretcher and placed her on their golf cart. Deputies handcuffed her son and led him away

It all happened so fast.

I couldn’t help but wonder if any of this would have happened if she had sought nourishment sooner, if the food line had been shorter.

Just then, a “peasant” man touched my arm and said, “A man took his child to the doctor and told him he kept turning invisible. ‘I can’t see him today,’ said the doctor,” he said. And then he moved on.

Not great timing.

But I thought of Jesus and how He would have noticed the needs even in the center of confusion. How He would have been able to bring peace and healing in an instant. We are not invisible to him—ever. He sees us 24/7.

But I was so overwhelmed by the busy around me, so overcome by sounds and sights, that I missed the need that fell right at my feet.

My head still spun.

“The Swahili word for “white man”—mazungu—literally means “one who spins around.” That’s how East Africans see Westerners: turning ourselves dizzy, a great whirl of motion without direction. We’re flurries of going nowhere.” ~Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God

We spend so much time wandering aimlessly through our moments, overcome by so much noise and so many shiny things that we forget to eat—physically and spiritually. We don’t hear His still small voice. We don’t notice His wonders or see the needs in front of us.

And often we make ourselves dizzy with much doing.

The empty glucose tube lay in the dirt.

The sound of bagpipes and drums called us to the final farewell.

I was glad to return to the stillness of the car for the long ride home.

RenFest 3



  1. Diane Bailey

    I know the feeling Sandy, The noise, the chaos,…I think of Jesus, he too was pressed in by the crowds, and asked, who touched me? The God part of him had healed, but the man part of him was possibly overwhelmed by the crowd and noise.

    • Sandra Heska King

      He asked, but yet he *knew* who it was. I never thought of Him being overwhelmed… I’m finding myself more overwhelmed with crowds and noise the older I get.

  2. soulstops

    I could feel the chaos as I read your vivid account…it is hard work to stop spinning and to learn to be still before God (what I’ve been learning)…glad the medics were able to help her….I can relate to your feeling of being overwhelmed…it is hard in crowds…

    • Sandra Heska King

      We do waste a lot of time spinning rather than anchoring ourselves in the midst of the still center of the swirling, don’t we, Dolly. I’m also learning how introverted I really must be. 🙂


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when you’re overcome by noise

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 4 min