The sounds of silence

Posted: May 30, 2012 in Health, Miscellaneous, Musings, Nature, Technology
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Silence isn’t really silent.  There are always noises of some sort.  What the sounds of silence are depends on where you are.

Our house, circa 1934

In our old house, there are house noise: settling sounds, creaks.  There are machine noises: the refrigerator doing whatever it does to keep cool, the freezer in the basement doing the same only colder; in summer– dehumidifier noises, very occasionally the air conditioner sounds; in the winter–furnace noises, the cracking of logs in the wood-burning stove in winter, the snap of mousetrap in the night (unheard by human ears, thankfully).  There are house-related nature noises, too:  rain hitting the roof and windows, snow sliding off the roof, icicles from our neighbor’s house cracking and falling (aided by either sun or human hand), little animal noises that sound as if they come from under the siding or, worse, inside the walls of the house.

The morning view

When we’re at the cabin in the mountains, it seems as if there is silence.  But as I sit on the porch in the early, chilly morning, cup of hot tea in hand and no one about, there are plenty noises.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands or more, unidentified insects make their little insect sounds, often incessantly, sometimes intermittently.  Birds sing their songs.  Hummingbirds buzz the feeder, each other (in fits of male territorialism) and even the red cooler if it’s on the porch, or my red shirt.  Some days the crunching of a moose at breakfast can be heard nearby.

When the girls were small and we would take walks around neighborhood in summer, the open windows provided many an unwanted auditory foray into the lives of our neighbors.  It reminded me, to be careful of what I said when the windows were open.  The same is true at the cabin.  Without city background noise, sound carries amazingly (or, depending on the circumstances, distressingly) well.  Be careful what you say about anyone unless it’s positive or you don’t mind someone repeating it!!  Parties in the evening, although fortunately usually done by 10 pm at the latest, can be heard from miles as can the hearty laugh of an older friend at his cabin quite a distance from ours.

When I get up to do my hour of early morning yard work, I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do it if I weren’t doing everything by hand.  Weed wackers and other mechanical equipment wouldn’t be welcomed by anyone still sleeping or having their breakfast and would seem intrusive to me.  I never mow before 9 am and usually not until afternoon, although the afternoon time slot is more so the grass is dry, because I do use a power mower, not a push mower.  Noise factor aside, though I know it takes longer, I enjoy working quietly in the yard and garden.  I enjoy the quiet.

One of the most obtrusive and annoying noises in the city is that of someone else’s loud music.  It might be excessively loud music from someone’s house or the “music” causing even my car to throb when someone pulls up four cars away with their speakers blaring.  No wonder there are hearing loss issues these days.  To the embarrassment of my daughters, I have one or twice unobtrusively reached over and cranked up some classical music in competition, while looking innocently straight ahead and laughing inwardly.  Juvenile but satisfying.

It seems most of us can’t live without noise, or sound, if you think that sounds less pejorative.  People have Bluetooths (or would that be Blueteeth??) in their ears constantly.  (Just think how odd that would have sounded not that long ago–a Blue tooth in your ear!!)  They talk constantly, a bit disconcerting when you don’t see the earpiece and there’s no one else around.  Who can tell the crazy people anymore when everyone appears to be talking to themselves? 🙂   We have earbuds for our iPods in our ears whenever we don’t have a phone earpiece in, the radio or CD player on in our vehicles–constant sound.  Constant contact.  Television, radio and stereo on when no one’s watching or even really listening; PlayStation, Xbox and their ilk going when all other things have fallen silent.

When there is constant, sometimes overlapping, noise/sound/stimulation, when do you relax?  When do you think your thoughts?  When do you dream your dreams?  When do your mind float free?  When do you realize that there are tiny, living sounds in the silence, when you’ve never heard silence?