The Sound of Silence is a Puzzlement Indeed

It was a sunny weekend in mid-spring and it was lunch time. After a morning of busily unpacking here and organizing there, we convened on the porch for lunch. A few bites in, FM says

“Shhh.  Do you hear that?”

I stopped chewing and strained my ears to hear what he was hearing.

 “It sounds like traffic on the highway”, he coached.

Now I could hear it too. It was far away but there was a definite whoosh, as if cars were driving quickly on a rain-wet road. There is a main road just to the east of us which does get the odd car driving at 80+ kph but this whoosh was coming from the west.

“Could it be the Island Highway?”

But that didn’t make sense either since it is about 6km west of us, too far for sound to carry.

“Maybe if the wind was blowing just right, we could hear the highway”

“But it hasn’t rained recently.  The highway would be dry”

“Maybe it is the Tsolum River.  It isn’t far from here.  Maybe it’s a big river.”

We carried on listening and trying to figure out if this was a sound to be concerned about. In a way, I didn’t want to find the answer because FM tends to fret about noises. His tolerance of noise (like airliners flying overhead or traffic on a highway or car stereos thumping) is low and we had moved here specifically to get away from the stress that noise brings.

He decided that further investigation was required so we put on our running shoes and went on a neighbourhood run. The key purpose was to check out the Tsolum River, which flows about 3 blocks west of our house, and to see if water was the sound we could occasionally hear. To our surprise, we arrived at a municipal park that had a sign describing a community clean-up of this river and park in 1986. We happily left the pavement and hit the trails, heading down to the river’s edge. There we found a small trickle of a stream. Even after the heavy spring rains, the Tsolum river remained shallow and could easily be forded with three or four wet steps. This could not be the source of  ‘the noise’.

After a lovely run which helped to further develop our understanding of our new surroundings, we arrived back home. As we removed our shoes, I listened again for ‘the noise’.

“I think it is the wind swishing through the poplar leaves”

Copse of Poplar trees on our island

Indeed, the copse of poplar trees on our pond’s island is now fully leafed out. When a gust of wind comes, the leaves seem to instantly come to life and then, as quickly, become still. With your eyes closed, it is easy to imagine that a car is driving by, but with your eyes open you are treated to the spring green leaves fluttering before you can even detect a breeze yourself.

The deafening noise of the wind in the poplar leaves

FM and I had a good chuckle over this discovery. In this moment, I realized that it will take a while to shed off the stress of city life. We still seem to be on guard for something to go wrong with this move. The saying goes “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Give us a little bit longer to figure out if the saying is true or not.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Shannon said,

    We just moved from CA where we lived in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It was the most peaceful place I’ve ever lived! But, now we’re back in a city. Enjoy your peace and quiet!

  2. 3

    Jennifer said,

    Congratulations on your peace and quiet. We wanted to try to find a more quiet neighborhood when we moved back to Southern California. This is an almost impossible task, but we have found that our back patio is very peaceful in the evenings. Enjoy your summer nights with open windows.


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