Quiet is Relative

During my visit to Tallahassee, I was conscious of familiar sounds at night. One that I always loved was the sound of the train, particularly on foggy nights when the sound carried quite a distance. I remembered lying in bed on Walton Drive listening to the sound but only now and then. This time, being a bit closer, in the midtown area, I heard it each night and savored the sound. I always thought of Tallahassee as quiet but there were street noises, the occasional siren, barking dogs, sometimes voices of walkers outside the window. It was not as quiet as I remembered! When I returned home to the mountains, I was struck by the absolute quiet and darkness. Having gotten used to it, I didn’t realize how quiet it really is in winter at least. Not a sound. No dogs barking (too cold out), no cars going down the street, no voices, only the sounds of the house. Snow falling off the roof, the wind howling through the bare trees, the Shohola bell making its beautiful sound when the wind catches it, these are what I hear at night in winter.

To add to my analysis of sounds and places, when I went into Manhattan and stayed at Michael and Allison’s apartment, I was struck by the light from the street, the street noises that seemed to go on all night long, and the diversity of noises — sirens, cars, people, noises from another apartment or the hallway. On the far end of the spectrum, however, is the amazing combination of noises and lights when I am in Rachel’s Brooklyn apartment. Just off a major avenue that runs through Brooklyn, there is constant light and noise. Trucks making middle of the night deliveries, sirens from the ambulances that use Seventh Street as a route to the hospital, people yelling at one another or just talking as they walk home late at night, and the variety of city noises that I am not used to. If you live in a big city, you quickly get used to the noises and find ways to deal with the light. I obviously have quickly become used to absolute darkness except for the moon and complete quiet. You are probably thinking at this point that I have much too much time on my hands to have given this all so much thought. For me, however, it’s a way of reconciling differences between where I have lived and where I live now. It’s almost two years since I moved here and I am still adjusting. The realization of that alone has been interesting for me so I find ways to think about where people live, what they become used to, and how the little things affect our sense of place. Take a listen to your surroundings when you have time.