I enjoy the quiet and have always been one to avoid noise. When I was around 14 years old, my family would drive to the property my parents had purchased. I dreaded it. It wasn’t the woods I hated so much; the tall pine and fir trees of the Pacific Northwest intimidated me into silence. At least from what I can remember.
In the eighth grade, I wasn’t traipsing through the woods anymore, looking for fallen logs to cross into other worlds. I wasn’t searching for the perfect set of trees to establish a “fort.” by the eighth grade I was finished with forts; secret hiding place to hang out with my friends weren’t my ideal afternoon. I wasn’t even looking for a stump to sit upon and read my book in solitude – pine trees dripped sap and even the most cautious among us would wind up with some sticky residue somewhere. Best if the pitch didn’t wind up on my favorite pair of jeans.
I preferred to wander the woods. Walking as quickly and quietly as I could in the opposite direction of my parents. Of course I wanted to avoid the work; but I also wanted to avoid the noise.
The plan for the family property was to eventually build a home. In the meantime, my parents would insist that us three kids get into the car, drive with them to the 2 acre plot of land, and help them gather firewood. I detested it.
It was dreadful. We were looking for the trees already fallen. My parents would get out the chain saw and set to work. My siblings and I were to throw the cut and split pieces of wood into the back of a truck my dad had driven separately. I can remember the chain saw buzzing. It sliced, not only the fallen log, but the acres of silence. The loud hum buzzed its way into my head splitting it in two. I was miserable with the noise.
Things haven’t changed much. Today I sit – a long way from the Pacific Northwest – looking out over a small lake that promises to be serene. It has every indication that things will be peaceful. There are large trees on its edge and slight breeze that rustles the leaves into a quiet hush. The October sun is bright but not hot; it’s a comfortable day to be here. Occasionally, the chortling of a duck echoes across the lake. Other times, it’s the cry of an osprey. The birds are trying to prevent me from taking myself so seriously. By and large, they are effective.
But there is a boat out in the lake, this first Friday afternoon in October, and it seems its owners are really set on starting the weekend off right. The lake is a fine place to relax and mingle with friends. The friends laugh, loud and in short bursts. It’s their lake today. Their radio sends out the tinny, hollow sounds of a local radio station.
The cacophony of the birds, the trees, the fish that just jumped out of the water, is superseded by the tinny sound of poorly written songs. I wonder if I would feel differently if it was Jacqueline du Pre they were broadcasting? I’ve convinced myself that the sounds of her cello would float across the water, rustle with the trees, take flight with the birds.
But this music attempts to walk across the water, climb the trees, bring down the birds. It can’t abide to sit still.
It can’t abide the silence.
And I can’t abide the noise.