I am not one for loud noises. I do not go back to restaurants or bars if I cannot have a conversation. I shut down if friends talk too much – and I don’t like the sounds of helicopters, loud cars, motorcycles or ATVs on my treks in the wilderness. Life is a great deal more than noise. Some of the most meaningful experiences that I have had in nature were when it was so quiet that I could hear even the smallest of sounds.
I recall climbing a mountain in the basin and range part of the Sanadaj-Sirjan ranges near Esfahan, Iran. It was a steep climb in the dry air of this arid and sandy expanse. Everything was in shades of gray and tan, no vegetation to bring out hues of green.
As I reached the angular summit, my face was awash with sweat. The gently breezes cooled me as I sat and explored the distant, curved horizon. A series of fault-block mountains, similar to Nevada’s Basin and Range, appeared like ships in a dusty sea, setting sail for ports unknown. As I recovered my breath, all I could hear was a loud drumming in my ears. It took me a moment to realize it was blood coursing through the veins in my head. So foreign and yet so intimate a sound – the steady beating of the life within my body.
With time the drumming went away and all was still. Not a sound was distinquishable here on this deserted peak hundreds of feet about the shifting sands of the alluvial plain that skirted the mountain I was sitting on. Then there it was, a soft call from the heavens. I scanned the skies and with time I saw a tiny black speck, a raven riding high on the winds, a solo actor on the blue stage of the sky. We appeared to have found ourselves, together in this lifeless part of the world.
The raven disappeared and I searched the skies for other signs of life. With time the silence was again broken – this time by the gently ringing of bells. Primitive bells hanging on the necks of sheep, sheep so far away that I could not see them. But with time they too came into view, dozens of them in the shades of the desert and followed by a shepherd. I felt a bond with this man and his entourage of four-footed friends, probably the only other human for miles around. We were bonded by the sounds of the bells. Sounds I would not have heard in an area with traffic.
I hope we can save and learn to preserve as many places as possible where we can go to listen to all the sounds of life, no matter how small. We need to work to save places large enough so we can escape the noise of modern day life and turn our attention to the beating of the heart of the planet.