We have experienced a peaceful existence if measured by a personal yardstick: living in a quiet place. Peace and quiet. Of course they go together. Peace and racing. Peace and shopping mall. Peace and gun range. Those pairings don’t belong together.
For 13 years now, we’ve grown accustomed to the elixir of quiet from our front porch when we have our meals in the evening; from the place we put our lawn chairs under the bluff on Goose Creek or beside Nameless Creek, back up in the place I have known–until now–as my “Fortress of Solitude.”
You might say that quiet has become one of our vital signs in the measure of the goodness and rightness of this place. The only ripples on this peaceful pond of place has been the occasional passing car, and sometimes, a few horseback riders clomp clomping slowly along the dirt road between the house and creek, the sea of silence closing in behind them like a curtain.
Silence on a morning here for all these years has been the white page I write on–an unblemished surface of calm not marred by screaming sirens, beep beeping backing up street sweepers, or the growl of traffic we once knew as city dwellers so long ago that those acoustic scars have healed. I owe clear thoughts to the channels of human busy-ness that we cannot hear from here.
You know when you’ll miss the water. I missed the eloquence of quiet in its absence, in the impossibility of finding any of it for miles, literally, at Floyd Fest Thursday through Sunday. While the energy and human tossed salad of 12 thousand held its momentary fascination, it did not take long to become an oppression from which I wanted, but could not find, relief.
Maybe its is the low frequency sounds that have the greatest impact on the body and mind. I made the distinct connection between the ubiquitous and monstrously-amplified percussion and the kind of concussion that damages so many young men in our times, in Afghanistan and our other wars du jour. The concussion of the percussion, on top of the jangling cacophony of point-of-pain disharmonies from a half-dozen stages at once came quickly to feel like an assault. It made me long for the air of home as a kind of antidote to an excess of unquiet.
But no. The peace is gone from this place. It disappears around 7 in the morning, and struggles to return just before dark, seven days a week. We now live next door to Mordor.
But in their defense, the young new neighbors who have given their permission to turn 120 acres into a war zone of stumps, have in all likelihood, never known or required quiet. Most people neither know nor need it, they think. So the fact that the unending logging has trodden our way of life under the gangling treads of the machinery must never have occurred to them. I have no reason to believe they are bad people and hope to find they will be good neighbors. Any neighbors will make here seem crowded, but we all need good neighbors. But I need a return to the sounds of this land, alone.
The well has run dry and it seems like forever, and I miss the amenities of our way of being terribly. Once the logging stops, the construction of a new house will begin, with its own attendant noises and traffic and dust. Once the house is built, we will never live on this creek alone again. I have the fear that we will hear four-wheelers by this time next year, small city children and their loud-adapted parents will be riding the muddy logging track that now scars our ridge, a remote place where I never ever imagined sounds other than the calling ravens and wind in the high tops of the white pines. That high ridge always seemed so absolutely safe from the risk of acoustic litter that would spill down into our valley, dawn to dusk.
I sat out on the front steps with my phone yesterday and recorded two 30 second clips: From the day-long sounds of assault on hardwoods and pines; and last night, the loud but not nearly so disquieting whirr and chirp of full-time six-legged residents who make a racket for sure, but disturb our peace in ways we accept, that is more like music, that has become so familiar it is a part of the pulse of quiet that thankfully has been our habitat, our home, for the good years.
Listen first to the evening sounds of nature, then to the buzzing mechanical insects eating the forest down the road, 400 yards away. You can hear one of scores of trees cut yesterday, falling with a sickening thud, at about 50 seconds in. Dropbox mp3 one minute total