The sounds of silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noise is on my mind recently. I’m convinced that we endure too much of it in honor of our existence here on earth.

Sometime it is the raucous chatter of politicians or the screech of advertising pushing aside real words to gain our attention for the mundane. At other times, it may be the scream of fire engines down the street or the roar of the motorcycle taking off.

When this happens too often, we dial down our senses and become numb to our world.

Let me give you an example:

For the past three weeks, city crews have been replacing the sewer lines in front of my house.

And then replacing the water lines and storm drains.

And tearing out the sidewalks with big dozers so that they can be replaced with NEW sidewalks.

When I asked the crew chief how old the sidewalks were they were replacing he replied, “Older than dirt.” I feel a kinship.

Each morning I set the alarm early so that I can dash out and move the car in order for it not to be blocked by the construction. Each day’s construction begins at precisely 7:04am with the beep-beep of yellow machines determined to disintegrate my solitude. Enormous tamper machines vibrate the very foundations of my home.

A blogging friend, Coffee Kat, writes a post about diminished hearing and I can totally relate.

One of my cats hides under the coffee table, seeking asylum from the noise and commotion. The other one sleeps through it all.

Today, though, all was quiet, except for one small bulldozer pushing dirt around aimlessly, like a kid on a playground after everybody goes home. For the first time in weeks, I could hear my refrigerator gurgle. I could catch snippets of my neighbor’s radio playing. A cardinal sang in the tree outside my window. Real sounds, at normal decibel levels. Pure bliss.

Then the noise began again. A man pounded orange stakes in the ground outside my front window to mark where the new sidewalks will be poured. He says the crews will lay the foundations tomorrow, and the cement trucks arrive the day after.

I feel rebellion setting in. I yearn to flee to the tiny Greek island of Budelli, where the caretaker has lived, alone, for 28 years, listening to the sounds of silence. What would that peaceful calm feel like, I wonder?

We need silence in our lives in order to function as human beings. As Wordsworth once wrote,

 …Again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

 

Without silence and solitude, our souls wither and our spirit diminishes. We begin to tune out what is really important to us. We don’t live, we merely walk around.

 

Has this ever happened to you? What was the noisiest situation you’ve ever encountered?

 

I wish you a very quiet day!

 

Water Moods

sky-clouds

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often visit Oak Creek Canyon in the summer to dip my feet in the creek at Ensinoso Falls. Because Oak Creek is spring fed, its waters are always breath-stoppingly cold, a welcome refreshment on a summer’s day!

This year because of the Slide Fire, all of Oak Creek Canyon is closed to visitors, so I drove to the East Verde Valley to encounter Wet Beaver Creek instead.

When I arrived the park was deserted. The camp host was nowhere to be seen. Even his hammock was empty!

host-home

The camp cat gave me a sniff before she deserted me for better pickings elsewhere.

camp-cat

As I walked down to the Creek, I spotted first one abandoned sock:

one-sock

Then two more, nestled like wooly caterpillars among the rocks:

two-socks

The sound of water roaring, roaring, roaring, told me why no one was sun-bathing today:

swirling-water

The heavy monsoons upstream had caused high waters, swiftly running, muddy, churning. No swimming today in the floods:

branch-in-water

The currents pushed against logs, turning them over in its eagerness to move forward, and the water knife-edged into white water:

edge-of-water

Where the water eddied, it created not ponds for wading, but entire lakes:

lake

In side pools, the shadows reflected in water holding its breath for a moment:

reflecting-pool

And in one special place the foam had created a pattern as clear as a thumb print:

thumb-print

If you visit a place with expectations, you may be disappointed.

If you visit with an open mind, the world can be full of surprises.

What’s on the tube?

old radio

Sometimes ideas arrive in your life at exactly the time you need them.

Several nights ago I was reading Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich by Duane Elgin. He describes how the commercial medium of television has profoundly shaped our culture.

Television stations make their profits by selling advertising, and advertising is bought by corporations to sell their products. And where does that leave us?

Elgin says that it creates an impossible double bind for viewers:

“People use the consumption levels and patterns portrayed in TV advertising to evaluate their levels of personal well-being, while those same consumption patterns are simultaneously devastating the environment and resource base on which our future depends.”

Strong words. But they led to me ponder my own relationship with television.

When I was growing up, we had an old Zenith radio prominent in the living room. My sister, brother, and I would gather around it in the evening while my mother cooked dinner and afterwards we’d return until bedtime. I learned to tell time by when Sergeant Preston and his dog Yukon King arrived at our house.

TV didn’t appear in my life until 5th grade. I have a clear memory of the kids (and grownups!) gathering at a neighbor’s house to catch the first snowy black and white picture. I remember wondering what all the excitement was about—it didn’t seem like such a big deal.

My child, of course, grew up in a very different world. She learned to read by watching Sesame Street and had favorite friends in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

TV gradually grew to be a constant background in my own life as well. That started to change about 15 years ago. Maybe the content of programs shifted or maybe I did. But suddenly the commercials seemed louder, or perhaps there were more of them. Elgin in his book estimates that people now may see an average of 35,000 commercials in a year. That’s a lot!

I found, too, that as more and more channels became available the content seemed to be degrading. Was it the garbage in, garbage out mentality that dictated what writers were creating?

Plots became simpler and sensationalism blossomed into an explosion of violence and sexual content. The definition of G-rated had come a long way from that first view of Elvis Presley’s hip gyrations on the Ed Sullivan hour!

And so, when I moved to a smaller home several years ago, I took the opportunity to take a break from television. I did miss it at first. There were blank spots in my living, especially at night when I got home tired from work, wanting to zone.

At first, I kept up with my favorites—Downton Abbey and House—via computer streaming. I compiled a list of 100+ must see videos on NetFlix. And I’d go down to the video store and rent a half-dozen of the latest at a time.

And then, another shift occurred. I discovered when I traveled, I no longer turned on the   I entered the hotel room. I was out of the habit.

I found to my disappointment that most of the ‘bestsellers’ at the video store were eye candy. Oh, they were full of sensational images and loud decibels but, as Shakespeare once said, “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I seemed to cycle in and out of the NetFlix membership. But that, too, is fading and I find that I am not missing it either.

So what has replaced it? Yes, I’m back to radio. Only this time it is the new and improved Internet version. I have discovered Pandora, which is the audiophile’s dream come true. It custom designs a radio station that just plays the music you like (sans commercials, no less).

I started out with my old favorites: Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel, with a bit of Enya and Clannad thrown in for good measure. But the software allows you, in addition to hitting the veto button (I don’t LIKE that song) to also say, OK, give me a bit more variety. I find lately that it is sneaking in some very fine guitarists and vocalists, often from Indie bands that I didn’t know about. And I like it!

I also have returned to reading. Some of it is also popcorn—the latest best sellers and mysteries. But in addition, I find I am reading a variety of other work. In the stack right now is  a  photo-essay on Bamboo, Pablo Neruda’s poetry, a book on good writing (of course!), a book on conscious eating, and Duane Elgin.

Although I don’t feel deprived, I recognize that the path I have chosen would not fit everyone.

But I would offer, in this season of mass, albeit desperate commercialism, that you monitor what your children are watching, absorbing, and digesting from the TV fare? And I challenge you to become more aware of what is entering your own world, as well.

I submit that the primary world can be infinitely more interesting than the shadows on Plato’s cave wall.