Yesterday I read an article in The Sun Magazine about "acoustic ecology." Who has ever heard of such a thing? I suspect it will become the next trend, alongside "elf-tear" dish soap and organic plastic (and off-the-grid authors). Anyway, Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist. He travels the world recording "soundscapes." He claims: "Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything." He claims that there are less than a dozen places in the United States where one can sit for twenty minutes without hearing noise from some human activity.
Immediately I thought of inviting Gordon Hempton off-the-grid to Haida Gwaii to listen to our silence. Before sending out the invite, however, I thought I'd do a little test. I went to the beach for my daily walk. Immediately, a jet flew overhead emitting a distant rumbling. Next, someone in the vicinity of Rapid Richie's Rustic Rentals Reasonable Rates (RRRRR!) started up a chainsaw. Okay, I thought, two flukes--now let the natural soundscape begin.
Just as I was beginning to enjoy the gentle lap of ocean, I heard the distant whine of a dirt bike. Then another. The grating noise grew louder and louder until they were upon me, waving merrily, as though they'd never heard of acoustic ecology, either. I tried not to wave back and to put my fingers in my ears (as Gordon Hempton suggests doing when confronted by such unbearable assaults), but finally I rose one hand at half-mast, hoping they'd get the hint. They didn't. A few inter-tidal ripping doughnuts later, and they were back, waving even more merrily. I pretended to look at shells even though I was committing a Haida Gwaii sin by not participating in even the faintest semblance of a wave.
No sooner had that roar died down than I spotted the dreaded All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). It was coming from the direction of the setting sun and I made a run for the dunes before I started pelting the happy driver with rotting seaweed. I began to wonder if our Haida Gwaii acoustic ecology was endangered. I began to wonder if it was always this noisy and I just hadn't noticed until now.This explains everything, I thought: no wonder I'm having troubles writing. Now I can add noise pollution to my procrastination repertoire. I'll add it to my top-ten list that includes kindling splitting, filling the ducks' water containers, outhouse cleaning, petting my cat.
Fellow writers may understand this phenomenon of shaping reality to fit our need to procrastinate. Perhaps a beautiful sunset on the last Sunday of the last week of summer simply attracts humans, and I should just pick up my pen and write despite the state of the acoustic ecology. Perhaps I should write about the soundscape of this Monday night. For the past hour, I've heard nothing but the ebb of the tide, the call of a loon, the gentle fall of raindrops on leaves. Or, as Gordon Hempton would tell me, I've heard everything...
Thank you for reading.