Just the Normal Noises

Stupid Phones. We’re Holdouts. 

What Counts as Quiet?

I paused in the parking lot of the suburban hotel and listened. I heard, and felt, music hurtling from a car on the street, subwoofer driving the bass beat into my bones. Somewhere on the sidewalk a woman laughed. The “Walk” signal at the intersection chirped out an audio cue for the visually impaired, warning of the coming red light and cross traffic. I heard a voice, tinny through a loudspeaker: “Welcome to Carl’s Jr. May I take your order?” A siren shrieked, closing in and then fading as an ambulance flew down the road.

It was 11 p.m. on a Friday.

Inside, the double-glazed windows muted the cacophony. “Whenever we travel,” I said to my husband, “I’m so grateful for our peaceful neighborhood.”

He nodded. “Cities are noisy places.”

Once we’d returned home, I stood and listened on our back deck. Roosters crowed. I heard our neighbor’s lamb, Avocado, who must have a speech impediment, bleating “maah, maah.” Crickets and frogs harmonized on the night air. A car crept down our narrow, semipaved, dead-end street that serves only a handful of houses; a moment later, I heard the creak of a garage door lifting on its tracks. Across the creek a dog barked, urging its comrades to join in. One of the neighborhood owls repeated its only question, “Who? Who?”  A contingent of coyotes set to howling, their cries drifting down on the night air from somewhere across the canyon.

Of all those sounds, I reckoned only the car and the garage door as “noise.” In my calculus, the sounds of Creation aren’t noise.

They’re something more like music.

I was thinking about music when my husband Rich acquired a new cell phone. Its default setting included a ringback tone. Every time I called him, a voice invited: “Please enjoy the music while your party is connected.” Then a cheesy rendition of Vivaldi’s Spring burst forth, unimproved by my phone’s small speaker. It made me snicker–or groan, depending on my mood–as I found nothing enjoyable in the digital interpretation of this masterpiece.

It annoyed me. As his wife and most frequent caller, I felt justified in asking him to reset the phone so I’d hear a ring, rather than a canned voice requesting an impossible task.

This morning, early, I sat on our deck, tuning my heart to worship God. I watched the moon slide down the sky and listened for Him as our little canyon came to life, the roosters leading the way. I imagined a ringback message:

“Please enjoy the silence as your Party is connected.”

I giggled.

As I listened to the overture of this day’s symphony, I acknowledged the space between silence and noise, and gave thanks for the quiet, overlaid with the melody He wrote, that surrounds our home.

7 Let the sea roar and all it contains, The world and those who dwell in it. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy 9 Before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity. 

Psalm 98:7-9 (NASB)

Comments

  1. A Joyful Noise :

    I Love this post! We enjoy our quiet area too. An occasional dog barking and frogs chirping, there is not much other noice. Except for automobiles that traffic up our dead end street. Although I have an emergency cell phone, it must be one of those dumb phones as it is not very smart.

  2. 'Please enjoy the silence as your Party is connected." love it!

  3. Hazel, Jodi,
    Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate you!

  4. Sandra Heska King :

    That connection's so much faster in the silence, isn't it? Love this, Sheila. But a lamb named Avocado? That might make me fuss at my maah maah, too. 😉

  5. Yes, Sandy. Yes it is.

    I'd never thought much about a proper name for a lamb…so Avocado seems ok to me.

    Thanks for coming by!

  6. shrinkingthecamel.com :

    Beautiful, Sheila. I so enjoyed reading this.

    I am lucky to live in a pretty quiet neighborhood. But isn't it interesting how people from the city don't like the quiet? They might view those city noises as a symphony to God. It's all in the point of view you take!

  7. Thank you, Bradley. I'm glad you liked it.

    You make a good point about perspective, but I think mine is broken. I lived in Los Angeles for 8 years. I loved everything about the place–except the racket.

  8. Oh, smiling here too, Sheila! It sounds like you found the perfect waiting song. Or maybe it is better described as the accompaniment. This description of your meeting place made me sigh happy.

  9. Thanks, Laura. So happy to bring you a smile.

  10. When the leaf blowers start their collective whine, our suburban cul-de-sac sounds rev up. Otherwise, it's pretty quiet. Right now, I am hearing the fading motor-buzz of a small plane flying north. Earlier, some dogs barking, but quiet now.

    I don't like big cities much. I wonder if it is the noise that disturbs me?

  11. It wouldn't surprise me, Ann. It's what I dislike about them…