The Last Quiet Places
Yesterday I was listening to The Last Quiet Places, an interview with the acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton on the radio show On Being. So good—defining silence as a presence and the absence of noise instead of the absence of sound. This interview resonated so much with me, a person who seeks daily refuge from city noises with my noise-cancelling headphones, although they are sadly more about absence than presence.
He said that he does something every morning that I also do: consciously enjoying silence before beginning the day. I can’t bear to listen to music in the morning—I don’t even like to talk much—and a TV on in the background is enough to send me into a panic. The photo above is Lake Superior this past autumn, taken at sunrise when it is possible to listen to the presence of that 31,700 sq mi (82,100 km2) body of water. It is in that place, over my entire life, that I have taken in the kind of silence that Mr Hempton is talking about, the kind of silence that feels like a necessity.
I also love the part when he talks about the sound of distant trains, a sound that is very special to me. It makes me think about the many conversations I’ve had with my dad while sitting outside on a warm night at my parent’s house, listening to the sound of a train whistle in the distance and talking about what crossing it’s at and how many miles away it is.