Enjoy the silence. canstockphoto0093195
So I am up in a deer stand at a friend’s expansive private property in way-south Georgia. Well, it was more a deer-press-box. I mean it had all the comforts of home – a swivel office chair, padded rifle rests on the shooting ports, convenient shelves (a.k.a. 2x4 studs) for personal items.
Now if any gentle Week-Ender readers morally object to the hunting of Bambi, please take refuge in the fact that nary a hair on any deer’s head was harmed by me in the writing of this story--or by being in the blind that day. It is simply a means of telling the real story.
Anyway, I’m sitting there in the pre-dawn dark waiting for that sunrise when I would have enough light to see through my scope. It was a gorgeous fall morning and as I sat there, I realized I could hear the blood running through my veins. I couldn’t recall hearing that sound for a very long time.
Now, when I said my friend’s land was in “way south” Georgia, I was being conservative in my description. If you were to look at his house on the widest magnification of Google Earth, you would see trees. If you zoomed in to the very closest magnification, you would continue to see trees until you could just feel the Hubble telescope (or whatever they use) straining to get closer. Then, you can just barely see the little white speck that is his house.
I joke with him that if you look up “middle of nowhere” in the dictionary, there’d be this picture of his house.
So as I am sitting there listening to the “thrum-thrum-thrum” of my pulse, I realized the reason I could hear it was not because I was about to have a stroke; it was because there was a complete absence of other sound.
There were no jets taking off, there were no cars whizzing by, no lawnmowers, weed-eaters, leaf blowers and all the other noise-producing instruments mankind has produced. It was a strange experience because once I realized the depth of the quiet, it was a little spooky.
It was like I was in this dead zone; there wasn’t a leaf moving, no pitter patter of little critters, only the occasional distant howling of a coyote or “who-who” of an owl. But the area around the blind was deathly still.
The profound silence made me realize just how noisy our world is. I’d become so accustomed to the digital, electronic, mechanical, manmade cacophony that we are assaulted with every day that to hear the world in its blissful self was a disturbing event.
I mean, think about life even in a small city let alone a large metropolitan area. From the moment you get up in the morning, your ears are assailed by an intensifying attack of competing sounds, many which strain or exceed safe decibel levels.
Your alarm clock, your electric shaver, your hair dryer, your TV, your radio, your phone, your kids--heck, even your computer makes noise; they are prepping the battlefield, softening you up for the main assault.
If you live in the burbs, you may avoid external sounds for a while inside your insulated command headquarters, but open your front door and automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles--the main attack begins and that’s before you actually get into your car.
As you close your door you hear the heavy artillery thumping three blocks away and it gets louder as the teenager down the block heads to school with his 18-inch bass speakers rattling the windows of your car--what must it be doing to his eardrums?!
Then you get onto the mean streets, seeing not other people out there but other vehicles, other noisemakers who are competing for your place. You have your windows rolled up, but the music or news or talk radio on to drown out the grinding of the machines racing at nearly three-digit speeds, just inches away from your door.
But I digress. What I started to say was that the silence reminded me of growing up on a farm in north central Wisconsin where our nearest neighbors in either direction on our gravel road lived a mile away. That is except for Arnie, a mid-30’s bachelor who lived across the street with his parents and played violin, badly, which constituted noise in our estimation.
During the day you might hear tractors working or an occasional car go by, or the cows and other farm animals making their sounds. But at night, it was quiet--almost as quiet as in that deer stand, I suppose; or maybe quieter. The thing is I didn’t really know because it was all I ever knew. You don’t learn to appreciate the quiet until you’ve been jaded and tainted by years of constant noise overload.
Then when you hear it--quiet that is--it comes as a shock.
So as I was reveling in the moment, contemplating all this amidst the trees, it wasn’t lost on me that no animals were anywhere is sight or hearing.
Even as the sun came up there wasn’t the routine rustling of leaves as squirrels started their day or birds fluttering through the bushes. I could hear distant turkeys thumping and clucking as they descended from their nighttime tree perches.
But in the dead zone that surrounded my blind, the silence was deafening. It dawned on me as the dawn became early morning that the animals were one with the silence; they owned the night.
Even though I had walked a mile in the dark as quietly as I could to climb into the blind that morning, to the animals I was probably clomping along like a brontosaurus.
Even though I’d kept movement in the blind to a minimum, it probably sounded like I was partying in there to the animals, so much was I disturbing their silence.
So I left the blind about 9 a.m., convinced the word had gotten out across the forest to stay away from my area. But as I trudged back to the house, I was at peace. Even though it was deer 1, me zero, I was ok with that.
Silence had been the real winner that day.
Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Beaufort, S.C.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email email@example.com .