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)

7 Responses to “The Sounds of Silence”

  1. Susie Pecuch says:

    Well said – here’s to the sound of silence and the rhythm of nature helping all of us calm down, tune in, focus, let go and breathe.

  2. Betty Dworschak says:

    Beth, great post about a terrific spot in this world. I took a neighborhood stroll with my beloved dog this morning; near the end, I realized I had enjoyed 45 minutes in suburbia in blessed quietude. When I came back to the main road, I was ripped from my reverie by a big truck zooming by. We all live with artificial noise – some we choose, some we don’t – your post reminded me to get up and turn off the TV no one was watching. Thank you!

  3. Sandy Affonso says:

    Hi Beth!
    Thanks for introducing me to Gordon Hempton and for sharing your beautiful experience in Maine. The essence of silence is it’s ability to let us fully experience life at it’s fullness. One of my favorites is Wayne Muller’s quote:
    “All life has emptiness at its core; it is the quiet hollow reed through which the wind of God blows and makes the music that is our life. Without that emptiness, we are clogged and unable to give birth to music, love, or kindness.” (Wayne Muller, “Sabbath”)
    Thank you so much for giving our boys a place in nature where they are given the time and space to experience the sound and vibration of their true inner spirit. Thank you for providing that hollow reed through which they can channel and express their life song and recognize the joy of being.
    I am so grateful!

  4. Jean Stein says:

    In the Montessori classroom , we play the Silence Game. The entire class sits quietly in a circle, eyes shut, simply listening to the sounds we can hear. After a few minutes, we open our eyes and each tell something that we heard. We do this exercise out in nature when we take nature walks. We also will compare the difference in the two listenings. We start this lesson at age 2 and we always learn from watching the children’s responses. This is one of my favorite lessons in our school. When a teacher tells me that her class is getting “exuberant,” I ask if they have been giving the quiet lesson regularly. We all need to take the time to reconnect to nature no matter what age or stage we are in.

  5. Beth Black says:

    Dear Susie, Betty, Sandy and Jean… thank you for your responses! Sandy, Wayne Muller is one of my favorites…”SABBATH: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest” and “How Shall I Live” are full of enriching and restorative messages! I read them on a retreat when I really needed to find some peace within. And Jean, I love the Silence Game. What a great way to shift the energy and also “touch in” and teach the fine art of observation! There is so much going on around us in nature that goes unrecognized. Betty, I don’t have a dog but I’m going out for a walk anyway…right now! 🙂

  6. Jean Raffa says:

    Beth,
    Great post, and such a lovely reminder to take the time to get back in touch with our senses. I believe this is the most restorative gift we can give ourselves. I’ve never heard of Gordon Hempton but will check him out! Thanks.

  7. Shaler Black says:

    Mom, I enjoyed your story! Having been with the family Mooselookmegunic Lake before I was able to imaging myself there. (I guess that’s second best to being there with the rest of the ladies in the family!)
    I’m looking forward to the Family Trek next month. I hope to soak in some calming and restorative ‘nature time.’

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