I recently heard of a group trying to protect silence. Through a research project, this organization is claiming a small section of land in Olympic National Park to be “the quietest place in the United States.” This “one square inch” of land is located two hours down a trail, lined with ancient trees and ferns. The exact location is marked with a small red stone on top of a mossy log.
The group chose this park because of that lack of human-induced noise. I’m sure there are chirping birds and creaking trees among those hallowed woods, but apparently it’s far enough away from roads and most importantly, airplanes. The information I heard reported that in most everywhere else in the United States, airplane noise can be detected every 20 minutes. So even if you think you’ve gone so far away from traffic noise and air conditioners and automatic garage doors, every 20 minutes there’s some sort of aircraft making sound. (I’ll have to pay more attention.)
This group’s cause caught my ear immediately because finding a bit of silence is something I can relate to. With three kids and a dog that likes to bark when a butterfly flits by the window where she perches at her lookout, moments of silence are so rare. Once, on a first day of school, I heard my kitchen clock ticking. I didn’t even know it made a sound.
If silence is golden, our house is a cacophony worth nothing at all. Between the TV, someone asking for food, someone (me) yelling at someone to do something, lawn mowers, radios, teenagers stomping up the stairs, washing machines and microwaves, there isn’t a square mile of silence to be found around here unless you are the only one awake at 3AM and catch a few milliseconds between snores.
The cause out in Washington rings true to me, that “silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything.” As much as I love a good and loud dance party in the kitchen or hearing my kids begrudgingly practice their instruments, there is real merit in finding my own square inch of silence. I know my body and sanity needs it, because despite the fact that I am a horrible morning person who cannot communicate or function without time and coffee, my brain wakes me up every day before the rest of the family.
I tiptoe downstairs, stepping over the creaks in the stairwell, to quickly brew a cup of coffee and sit in relative silence with a book for a few precious moments. I know someday I’ll miss the busyness of a full house, but for now finding these rare seconds make me a better person, so I kind of understand how the animals out in Olympic National Park must feel.
Monetary donations to the project in Washington can be made online. I gladly accept coffee and decent paperbacks.
Originally written 9.4.16