The Sounds of Silence

Beth enjoys the sounds of silence on Mooselookmegunic Lake

Beth enjoys the sounds of silence on Mooselookmegunic Lake

At the end of summer I went camping with my two sisters, niece and a friend on Mooselookmegunic Lake (yes, really!) in Northern Maine. After we arrived at our campsite, set up the tents, created our kitchen, collected firewood…we sat! It was stunningly beautiful. And it was blessedly quiet.

Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, has traveled the globe for more than twenty-five years recording the vanishing sounds of nature. He reports that the average daytime noise-free interval in our wilderness areas and national parks has shrunk to less than five minutes!

I looked at my watch. 3:40pm. Then I stretched out on the rocky beach and listened. I heard the “whoosh” of the wind through the pine trees…the lapping of the lake on the shore…the mournful call of the loons…I was thoroughly relaxed and falling asleep. Then came the ROAR. A huge jumbo jet interrupted “nature’s silence”. I looked at my watch and it was 4:30. It had been 40 minutes of bliss. We were really out in the wilds of Maine!

After a week of listening to nature’s soundtrack, I was starkly aware of how little time I spend in “nature’s silence”. The week had been restorative, as if nerves had calmed and I was in synch. As Angeles Arrien says, I was “in nature’s rhythm, which is medium to slow!”

Cherokee Creek intentionally chose the woods for our campus. Our boys hear birds when they wake up, not traffic. And their days are uninterrupted by television, loud music, cell phones, texting, video games and other technological distractions. Their free time is filled, instead, with time outdoors, play, wilderness outings, reading and quiet time. It is real and true.  Nature calms. Nature restores.

“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything. When you’re in a place of natural silence, you’re not alone, and you can feel it. Whether it’s birdcalls from miles away or the proximity of a giant tree whose warm tones you can feel, there’s a presence. It’s a quieting experience.”    Gordon Hempton

In this autumn season of the Teacher – a time of letting go, introspection and stillness – I am becoming more aware of the beauty of nature and “the sounds of silence.” 

Still discovering what is real and true about the world around me…

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posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (7)

Island Teaching

 

The boys building sand castles with Granny Annie

The boys building sand castles with Granny Annie

Emerald Isle, North Carolina! I propose to you that it is one of the most perfect family vacation places ever! It is family-friendly, has great beaches, nice surf, and not much else to do. Last week my wife, three kids and I made our third trip there…and each time seems better than the last.

 Here are five lessons I packed in my suitcase to bring back from the Island:

  1. Cell phones do not help you communicate with people in the same room. They are for talking with people who you can’t see. When I needed to check my messages, I did so in a private room. When I was spending time with my family, I left my phone in the bedroom. “What I pay attention to is what I value” (see the “Attention is Caring” post)
  2. Listen with your eyes, ears and heart. Only 7% of communication is the words, 38% is tone of voice, while a whopping 55% are the non-verbals…including what is not being said.
  3. Get on the floor and do a puzzle. I really didn’t want to at first…but my insistent 4 year old convinced me. I had a great time, and so did he!  He asks me all the time at home and I usually blow it off because I “have to do something right now”.   We were only together for a few minutes, but the engagement was authentic and fun. This was a “memory making” moment! I vow to do puzzles with him even when I am not on vacation.
  4. Uncle Nathan is invaluable. As a parent I spend a lot of time setting limits and boundaries with my kids. I don’t know if it has ever happened to you, but I get the feeling they tune me out after about the hundredth time I say the same thing. Uncle Nathan silenced all three boys at once when he said, “Your mom already said you can’t have another fudge cookie, so the answer is ‘no’.” Wouldn’t it be great if all of the adults in our kids’ lives backed us up like that? Who else can I include in my kids lives who has good boundaries and can help form a big circle of support around each of my boys?
  5. Creativity from boredom. “Daddy I’m bored, can I play the DS?” says my oldest. “No, you have already played the DS.” This little scene repeated itself several times before he figured that I wasn’t going to be swayed, but in the interest of time I’ll skip to the conclusion – 15 minutes later, he was making a “racetrack” around the house with his little brothers, and when they finished with that, they went outside and drew on the sidewalk with the chalk their grandma gave them! None of them seemed bored to me…in fact they seemed happy. Less DS, more creative play!

 

Vacations have value besides naps and new scenery. The new perspective they provide helps us to remember what is really important. Try a new perspective on the vacation that you take this summer…look at it as a learning intensive time. It is fun to learn, especially on an island!

 SO HERE IS MY “REAL AND TRUE” FORMULA FOR CREATING A “VACATION OF FAMILY DISCOVERY” 

 UNPLUG FROM THE “OTHER” WORLD…LEAVE YOUR WORK, COMPUTER AND CELL PHONE “BACK AT HOME”

 PLU G INTO YOUR CHILDREN…PLAY GAMES, DO PUZZZLES, TELL STORIES, LAUGH, SIT ON THE FLOOR

 INVITE “UNCLE NATHAN” …EXPAND THE FAMILY CIRCLE IF YOU CAN. YOU WILL NEVER REGRET THE MEMORIES YOU ARE CREATING…

 RELAX, BREATHE, MAKE SPACE… “NATURE’S RHYTHM IS MEDIUM TO SLOW” … IT ALLOWS US TO ENGAGE OUR CREATIVE MIND…AND TO REST!

 AND A TRIP TO AN ISLAND IS WORTH THE JOURNEY! 

 

 David LePere is the executive director of Cherokee Creek Boys School, a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys ages 11-15 in Westminster, SC.

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