All through the night, especially during those nights when sleep isn’t quite sleep but a semi-consciousness, sirens wail. The emergency room of a huge hospital is just a country block south of me.
Sirens scream 24/7 as law enforcement and fire department personnel do their dangerous duties.
During the day, there are loud motorcycles, cars whose mufflers have collapsed or are intentionally noisy to emphasize the machismo of the driver. Lawnmowers whine and roar. Trucks downshift. Construction vehicles emit an especially piercing beep as they go into reverse.
A blasting automobile horn is notification that someone either lost the key or a burglar is at work, and there is the beep of the remote opener of the car door. I always jump, thinking someone is trying to get my attention!
Joggers wear ear phones so they can listen to music, or whatever, as they bounce along, and no teenager worth his or her salt would be caught dead without one of these new hand-held gizmos that do everything but talk, and I guess some of them do that, too. (The only Twitter I am familiar with is the beloved horse by that name who is buried in the pasture.)
There was the time when a cell phone was just that, like the one I have and only use for long distance calls and as a safety net when I’m driving or if the power goes out.
Mine will not take pictures or give me a weather forecast. When it rings at 2 a.m. I don’t bother to answer as no one who knows me would think of calling me in the middle of the night.
I don’t bother to answer it in the daytime, either, as very few people have the number. I have a hard time remembering it, too.
I do not have a gadget in the car that speaks to me and tells me where to go, left or right. That’s what a map is for, isn’t it?
My kitchen radio is tuned very low and just for the news or weather report. The television is on only after 5 p.m., and only then if the weather is too hot or too cold or too rainy or snowy!
Most of the time it intrudes on the book I am reading, unless there is an intelligent program — and there are very few of them — on. Not being a sports fan, I find little to watch or listen to. Except golf, which even I can understand!
Doesn’t it seem that the noise level around us has increased dramatically over the last few decades?
In the 50s, there was a drive-in theater on two-lane Market Street at the end of Washington Boulevard, and we neighbors complained nightly about the noise.
After the theater closed, noise was provided by residents of newly built apartments on the Boulevard and of the trailer park at the corner. That too has gone but the apartments remain and continue to keep the noise level high!
Orion, a marvelous environmentally oriented magazine, recently published an article about the author’s search for silence in this modern world and about the extinction of silence in wild places.
Kathleen Dean Moore teamed up with Gordon Hempton, whose mission is trying to “protect the silence” in every national park.
The author writes, “Cities drown us in sound. Buses grinding gears and motorcycles grumbling, woofers thudding, endless engines combusting, trucks beeping and street-corner preachers calling down damnation on it all — what does it do to the human being, whose ears evolved as a warning system? In daylight, our eyes can warn us of danger 24 hours a day from every direction, even through dense vegetation and total darkness. Some linguists believe that the oldest word is ‘hist’ — listen!”
Now you’ve had your lesson in silence for the day, I must tell you how much I appreciate what I hear here, with my wonderful trees muffling most of the world’s intrusive sounds.
I hear birds, from dawn to dark, even into darkness. I hear the sweet sounds of Toby and Apache enjoying their meals, and I hear the conversation of the pond’s inhabitants.
I hear the leaves rustling in the wind and the warning of the oak grove across the street that a storm is coming.
And of course I hear Winnie’s “warning” that someone dared to turn around in her driveway and I hear Bingo’s plaintive request for more food.
Best of all I hear, every morning, Judy’s telephone call to check on my little family and to make sure I haven’t kicked the bucket!