Saturday, November 07, 2015
SILENCE AND NOISE
On warm summer nights, at my sister’s house in the village of Lougheed, you can wake at 2;00 or 3:00, stretch, perk up your ears—and if the fridge is on intermission from its regular humming concert, and the coyotes are stocking other territories, you might just hear—nothing at all. You listen, you check your ears for wax, you listen again, and still you hear—absolutely nothing. On these nights I lie still, warm and secure and silent. The morning will bring out the people, the birds, the cars. All will be well. On cool autumn days in our new apartment, with the doors and windows closed against the threatening chill of winter, you hear the occasional scrape of a chair on the laminate in the dining room of the apartment above, the low level hum of an Edmonton transit bus accelerating, the swish of traffic on Victoria Park Road far below, a siren at the fire station down the street, the soft voice of a neighbour greeting afriend at the elevator, the trickle of a shower that isn’t yours. All of it is far away unrelated to the physical distance. Your friends ask: “Is it noisy?” “No,” I say. “Nothing that bothers us.” Once upon a long-ago time, when our children were an as-yet undiscovered fragment of our possible future, we camped alone with the grasshoppers on a dusty site in Saskatchewan. The only sound of the night or the day was the wind brushing leaves of the few poplars left at the edge of the ditches. To an urbanite, it was deserted. To a girl recently transplanted from a farm, it was the difference between Alberta and Saskatchewan. To a romantic it should have been—well—romantic. But though I knew I ought to be thrilled to be there with my love in such a private space, awed by the nature of nature undisturbed by anyone but us, I was dogged by a persistent fear of the things that can happen to people alone—attack by disease, or animal, or man. In future I would frequent noisier campsites, and savour the absolute silences of the warm nights in a fine bed comforted by the close presence of others. In the short term future I would live in the suburbs where it is sort-of-quiet. In the long term I would move to an urban apartment on a busy street near a major river crossing and be happy just to be in the noisier centre of things.