Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Listening

Yellow Breeches Creek - Bowmansdale, Pennsylvania
Winter is a good time for listening. Last night fog reflected light from the full moon and made the winter woods nearly as bright as dusk. I could see as far into the forest as hills would allow. The air was damp, ahead of more rain (!) tomorrow, but the wind was calm. Standing outside, I listened to the call of a very distant great horned owl somewhere far down in the valley.

Somewhere nearby, I’m certain, other people must have been around. Perhaps an employee of the ski area, locking the lodge door after closing for the night, though I didn’t hear a sound or see a sign of anyone. For all I could sense, I was alone on the mountain, with only the owl or the occasional snap or crunch to break the stillness. The deer, likely were feeding just out of sight.

I have long loved the quiet of a calm winter night. Summer’s nights are never so still or so quiet. The leaves whisper too much, like the town gossip. Perhaps they have much news to spread in the half year of their existence. In winter, covering the ground, they are quiet, unless an unwary deer awakens one with a misstep.

In winter, the silent woods makes my senses seem stronger. I hear only distant sounds, a train whistle, the pounding of the train on the rails, a dog on the other side of the mountain. In warmer months, those all are too faint to compete with the rustle of millions of leaves. But not in winter.

I am surprised, often, by just how quiet the night can be. I don’t hear shouts or calls from people, even those that live within a mile. Surely those would be as loud as a dog’s bark. I don’t hear doors slam either, not car doors or house doors. In fact, I rarely hear the sound of a car at all. Are those quieter than a tree falling or a train whistle?

And so I stand outside, listening not for breaks in the silence so much as to the silence itself. I find the quiet comforting. The quiet tells me all around my little corner of the territory is well. Winter is a good time for listening.

4 comments:

withywindlenatureprograms.com said...

What a lovely post! I love walking in the woods during the winter, but never thought about how much quieter they are - until just now! Thanks for sharing this moment.

Woodswalker said...

Nice reflection on silence. There are so few places where one can find pure silence anymore, it's a rare treat when we find it. I love it after a deep soft snow, how muffled all sounds are.

ramblingwoods said...

It's true, but I have been feeling kind of lonely at night with only the occasional great horned owl coming in through my birding microphones, but you're right that I should be enjoying it for what is is... no lawn mowers..leaf blowers o other such stuff...Michelle

Carolyn H said...

WWnp: Thanks! The quiet is one of my favorite things about the forest.

WW: A bit of snow is finally in my forecast, though I'm not sure it will be enough to create that nice "snow-muffled" silence.

RW: Yesterday I heard a screech owl! But you're right, the bird sounds are pretty slim right now. Of course, that means I can hear the deer stepping through the woods a lot better.