The Sounds of Silence


The big pond looking west.

The big pond looking west.

Whenever I have to go into even a medium-sized town, I feel as though my eardrums are being assaulted. City living is notorious for noise. Traffic, airplanes, construction, people talking — you name it. When you live in the country, it’s very different. Not because it’s perfectly quiet, but because of what you do or don’t hear.

What you don’t hear: the car playing rap music with the speakers and the bass turned up to the point where the car vibrates — not to mention everything else in the vicinity. Aside from the decibel level, the quality of the music leaves a great deal to be desired, in my opinion. Then there’s the constant undercurrent of traffic. Even in a building that shuts out some of the outside noise, you must deal with elevator-type Muzak, people yakking on their cell phones and the hum of air-conditioning or heating systems. When you live in the country, you do hear the occasional plane. If you’re far enough out, though, there’s little to no traffic noise. Sometimes you hear a chainsaw.

Apple blossoms against a spring sky.

Apple blossoms against a spring sky.

What you do hear: the sound of wings as the geese fly low overhead, settling into the big pond for the night. You hear the pigs shrieking with excitement when they see the food buckets. You hear the ewes talking to their lambs, and you can recognize each ewe’s voice. Carter, for example, always sounds as though she’s talking with her mouth full. You hear the triumphant cackle of the hen that has just laid an egg, and when you stand at the hen house door waiting for them to all get inside so you can shut them up for the night, you hear the turkey vultures shoving each other on their roost in the pine tree. Sometimes you hear a turkey vulture fall off the roost, crashing through the branches and swearing in Vulture. If it’s light enough, you’ll see a disgruntled vulture soar down the cliff face before winging back up to shove somebody else off.

When you spill some grain, you hear the juncos chatting with each other as they do your clean-up work. The hummingbirds make a Zzzzt! noise in your ear as you fill their feeder, dive-bombing you in hopes that you’ll hurry up and get out of their way. You hear the stallion talking to the mares one pasture over, and the geese squabbling for position on the big pond. The first night the spring peepers start, you’ll hear a few brave souls announcing the change of the season. Within a week, the frog chorus drowns out the geese. If you heat with wood, you might hear the crackle and pop of pitch in the logs as they burn. When there’s been a lot of rain, you hear the tumble and rush of the water racing down the creek below the house. You hear a pine cone crash when a squirrel chews it lose from a branch, and the wind come up in the pines.

People who live in the city have no idea what they’re missing.

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2 Responses to The Sounds of Silence

  1. Bee says:

    Thanks, Jenny; glad you like it!

  2. Jenny says:

    I live in LA, never quiet here. This essay speaks to me, and the pictures are beautiful.

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