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Silence and Noise, not exactly binaries

October 8, 2010



Treetops in the lower field, chattering like the pidder-padder of rain



On a break from writing, giving my overloaded thoughts a moment to cool down, I was sitting in the field watching Wile dash back and forth in his afternoon run, observing the llamas in their grazing routine, and for a moment, said to myself, “ahh, enjoy this quiet!” And then I heard the rain. Rain drops pitter-pattering as if they were falling on a tin roof somewhere. But where in this perfect afternoon of sunny skies was the rain? As I leaned back, I realized, it’s the trees. Their leaves shake like the rain.


It’s funny how easily we slot life experiences into easily-referenced expressions: “The city is so noisy – it’s always moving!” as opposed to “The country is so peaceful and quiet – I feel very still here.” It’s funny how easily we rely on cultural expressions that possibly unintentionally mask the complexity of experience and being. Yes, the “city” is “loud”. I just returned from a week in NYC, and undoubtedly I was splashed in the face with the racuitous existence that is the street; honking, screeching, train brakes below the ground, screaming children, they’re all there to fulfill your every stereotype. And of course, the “country”, or my country, the Shenandoah Valley, has its own picturesque fulfillment of the stereotype of quiet and serene – rolling hills, animals slowly grazing through a pasture, few cars buzzing by, fewer people in the “town” with even fewer sidewalks for those fewer people to bump into one another and share their audible space. But I feel like this expressive binary falls short in some ways.


In the midst of all of the movement, the noise of the city, I often feel a calm, quiet peace inside myself, the peace of being surrounded by life, and by those going about their merry way trying to live it. I am given the peace to see my own rushings and ramblings reflected in those around me, and am reminded of my humanity.


In the country, I have found the idiom of serenity and quietness falling short as well. I have felt an abrasive life-force in the “quiet” of the day that was too blocked out by the comings and goings of the city – or maybe by the height and depth of the buildings – for a person to be consumed in it. If you sit in the middle of a field for long enough, you feel it. The grass sways, the crickets, those darn things never shut up no matter what the movies tell you about them only carrying on their conversations at night. The trees creek. They creek like old buildings, like stairs in old brownstones in Harlem. The highway that cuts through the Valley offers a constant buzz at the bottom of the mountain range. Nothing is quiet–everything is screaming at you at every moment, lest you forget that you are in the midst of a life-force so large that you might be consumed in an instance. In the “city” (whichever city pleases you) often, we as people are the life-force; in the country (whether that’s rural farmland or more mountainous terrain) the life-force radiates from the surrounding Earth. Cliche as it may be, I realize it bursts the idiomatic idea of country=calm, city=loud, at the seams. Amazing, how trees that sound like rain can provoke this thought…

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