“I try to hone my observation skills. Not only my eyes, but my ears; my whole body. I try and get sensitized to the creatures and the landscape. I have moved a long way into that world since I started. During my first journeys, I was clunky and jittery and even the wind hurt. Later, you come to the point where your body works well. Somewhere during a trip, when you aren’t as consumed with your own thoughts and your own fears, you begin to sense other stuff. Things about the animals and the land.
Solitude is the deepest well that I have ever run across, in terms of returning benefits. I imagine it would be different if solitude was forced on you. But to choose it is to draw on a well that never goes dry. It places a person in proper alignment, in their proper order. It’s the impact of stepping outside with a minimum of things and a great deal of landscape around you. A great deal of quiet. You begin to listen to what is around you and also to what is going on inside of you.
I like the tundra because you can see a long way. You get shrunk to the right proportion in the expansiveness, when you are by yourself. Especially on longer trips. Somewhere in the middle you can’t reach backward and you can’t yet reach to the end. And there you are -- just in the present moment. That is so exciting.”
-- Robert Perkins, from an interview in Heron Dance magazine, February 1996.
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Unwelcome noise has long been reported to be the number one quality-of-life complaint of New Yorkers, as well as other people throughout this country.
Silence and quiet are indeed among the world’s scarcest commodities, especially in cities, although background noise is usually found almost anywhere people live.
In earlier, simpler times, especially in the pre-industrial era, average decibel levels were obviously a lot lower, which made for a much less stressful “soundscape.”
No matter where they lived, and even when they faced great difficulties, our early ancestors typically lived their lives surrounded by the peaceful sounds of nature.
For most of us, the experience of total immersion in an environment of natural sounds is only available by traveling to large natural areas and spending time there.
Which is what we do on our trips, of course. Even if the relaxing effect of natural sounds isn’t the reason we go, we inevitably benefit from a break from noise.
Plus there’s great pleasure in listening to the soothing sounds of rushing streams and waterfalls, wind whistling through pine needles, melodic birdsong, croaking frogs, singing crickets, and countless other evocative sounds of nature.
Most of those lovely sounds are relatively subdued, especially when compared with the cacophony of everyday life, and most of them are appealing to our ears.
Overall, in the natural world it often feels like we’re totally enveloped in peaceful silence, broken only by the “soft voices of nature” -- which feels incredibly nourishing and therapeutic. It’s an exquisite quiet that some of us long for and never tire of.
-- Charlie Cook