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The sound of silence (03/29/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Speaking of silence, who hasn’t been perplexed by that vexing gesture, the silent treatment? I’m inclined to say that it’s a foolish, if not childish annoyance usually associated with puppy love and immaturity, but grown adults aren’t above it. Senior citizens might wallow in it, reasoning, “silence is golden.” Those who crave a good argument feel letdown.

Where a moody teen and a chatty parent are concerned, the kid’s silence can often be preoccupation, the spell broken by repeating, “Earth to kid with plugs in ears!” When your precious toddler is finally quiet and put to bed for the night, that’s a wonderful, longed for silence! On the other ear, if a child has been out of sight and quiet for a spell, it’s a wise move to check for mischief.

Sounds come in multiple forms. “Gordon Hempton is on a mission to record the natural sounds of the world before they are drowned out by human noise.” “For love of sounds like these (the natural,) Gordon has begun a campaign to protect the silence of the national parks.” I read everything I can find written by author and naturalist Kathleen Dean Moore. Her interview with Gordon Hempton appears in the April Utne Reader, entitled “In Search of Silence.”

How often, amidst our humdrum routines and duties do we seek silence? Even so, where can it be found? You might as well whistle Dixie to get your hubby’s attention during a football game. “I CAN HEAR YOU! STIFLE IT!”

As a dreamy, intensely sensitive teen, I created escape routes, private cubbyholes and earthy spaces in order to spend time with myself. How boring is that! I would lie in the grassy field beyond our backyard and consider the dizzying shroud of the universe. I recall the shrill sound of blowing on a blade of grass between dusty thumbs, and the concerto of butterfly wings rubbing against clover, drowning out all disturbances from a world of racket. Hvorka’s ground cherries were too close to be spared. I would dare to pick a handful, slip off their flimsy gowns, and feel the burst of tiny seeds slide across my tastebuds to a silent place within me, yearning for more of life, much more.

It often seems like noise pollution is bullying nature’s delicately trembling gifts; they cannot be heard above the din of “progress.” They have no other means to be spared but by mankind’s mercy and concern of serious nature lovers. We were all placed here to be stewards of the land. Consider the noble example of early Native Americans, how they used every speck of buffalo killed only for their survival, taking no more of them down than they would need during long, treacherous winters.

Moore’s books “Riverwalking” and “The Pine Island Paradox” are gems for those who are ravenous for every particle of news from chronicles of Mother Nature. We are merely squatters on designated plots of land we have claimed as our own. Just ask Thoreau! Berry! Whitman! Sigurd Olson! Emerson! Dillard! Mel Ellis and Aldo Leopold!

Moore pointed out in the Utne article, “It’s not the noise in the cities that most concerns Gordon, however, but the extinction of silence in wild places.” “Human noise also damages animals, whose behavior are tuned exquisitely to songs and other auditory signals they use to hunt and to escape, to establish territories and to find mates.”

Pat and I have discovered a fifth season, as we enter the aura of our simplistic getaway haven up north. The essence of forests, lakes, and wildlife cleanse the mind of all disturbance and burden.

The season of Lent can prompt personal, quiet times of reflection. Silence says it all. Partake with gratitude.

Janet Burns has lived in Lewiston all of her life. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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