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Nature Has Its Own Soundtrack

Posted Jul 18 2009 12:28am

I love being up just after the sun has risen. OK, let me rephrase that. I hate getting up but I love being up just after the sun has risen. There is something magical about that time of day, there’s a freshness to everything, the streets are quiet and there’s a sense of possibility about the day ahead.

But what I love most is the silence, the lack of cars or other noises that assault our ears the rest of the day. It’s such a wonderful sound that it makes it worth the effort to drag myself out of bed just to hear it.

There is a line in the W. B. Yeats poem , The Lake Isle of Inisfree, that always comes to mind in that early hour;  “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings”

Such silence is a rare and precious commodity, so we have to enjoy it wherever and whenever we can.

The other day Shirley and I were walking on a trail in the woods alongside a reservoir. It was gorgeous. Sunlight streaming through lush greenery, the wind whipping tiny waves on the water; the only sound was bird song and the wind blowing through the trees.

And then you heard it. At first muffled, then louder, accompanied by the slap of feet on the ground and heavy breathing. It was a too-loud iPod pumping music directly into a jogger’s ears, and overflowing out to taint the world around  her.

The music got louder as she drew level with us, and then, as she plodded puffing off into the distance, the sound gradually disappeared with her, but it left me a little sad that here she was, surrounded by beauty and wonder, and she was shutting herself off from it.

I know that running can be tough and sometimes you need a little something to pep you up, but this gal was running along a beautiful country trail, surrounded by incredible sounds and she was blocking them with some raucous rock.

Now, not only is too-loud music bad for your hearing (as someone who spent too many years listening to too loud rock I can tell you that it takes its toll over time) but it’s even worse when you have the source directly inside your ear. Even Apple’s own iPod manual has a section saying “Warning: Permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume.” Yet to pump that into your ear when you are already surrounded by wonderful sounds seems a terrible waste.

How often do you get to be in a place that is so quiet that you can hear the world as it used to be, uncontaminated by planes or cars or industrial sounds? Not very often. So why would you choose to ruin one of those few occasions by blocking those sounds with music you can hear anytime, anywhere.

Sometimes we just get so caught up in our day-to-day routines that we fail to see the wonder around us, fail to appreciate that just being quiet and listening to the world can be an amazing experience.

It’s not hard. All we have to do is turn off the music and open up our minds. It’s right there in front of us, if only we listen.

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