Hunkered down as I am in this mountain cabin, I'm not being subjected to noise I don't like. In this frosty pre-dawn morning, I stood outside, listening, listening, listening to the quiet swish of ice as it drifted by on the nearby river. The sound was sweet: smooth flow of water, then a clinky brush sweep as ice bumped into a grassy overhang or a downed tree or a block of granite. No patterns emerged. It was a gentle symphony, with occasional crescendos, reminding me of the eternal movement of hydrologic cycles.
The quiet of this cabin is amazing. I can sit inside and hear the swoosh of ducks as they land on a flat stretch of river. I can hear the resident bald eagle screech her regal declaration as she begins her hunt. I can hear elk bugling on the other side of the pined ridge. I can hear wind's gentle dance through the firs towering above the cabin.
The quiet of this cabin is amazingly restorative. After spending just one day here, my body is softened. The shoulders lose their grip, headache dissolves, grasshopper fretting slows its pace. The effects of returning to my urban home are noticeably immediate and unsavory, as the physical signs of tension jump in right where they left off.
I know that noise pollution doesn't have to be just related to airports and train crossings. It can be just the ongoing bombardment of lesser noises. In my office, I currently listen to two co-workers' radio stations, traffic passing by my window, conversations of phone calls and drop-ins, the copy machine and shredder and microwave, as well as ongoing employee banter. When a door nearby is opened, I hear the sci-fi hum of computer servers. Road repair is going on next to our building, so I hear and even feel the brutality of trucks, rollers, jack hammers, and backhoes. The noise was so bad last week that a co-worker had to take his work home.
At my small home in a quiet residential area, I hear cars and kids and dogs. A lot of dogs. It is shocking to me that people leave their pets unattended for such long stretches while the poor animals bark and bark and bark. One neighbor recently left three dogs alone outside for more than five hours: incessant yapping for more than five hours. Obviously no concept of accountability operating here.
Noise pollution can impact us in many different ways, the most obvious being auditory damage. Other impacts include effects on memory, brain efficiency, and blood pressure. I recently learned that noisy classrooms can be damaging to children, particularly when they are in developmental stage related to language acquisition. Children from noisy homes were found to respond differently than those from quieter homes, with the former often deferring decision-making to teachers.
My hearing is very acute. I know that quiet serves me best. I seek out places to stay that are as quiet as possible. I have the televisions in our home located at one end of the house, rather than centrally, so that one person's desire to watch television doesn't impinge on another's desire to avoid the beast. I know that I can write better when it's quiet. Yesterday I made significant progress on a textbook chapter. Soft sounds of the natural world are most inviting to my muses. Don't need that manmade noise here, thank you very much.