We once lived in a much quieter world

Published 1:14 am Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pause for a second where you are.

Now listen.

Is there silence in the house or wherever you might be? Complete silence?

I doubt it.

Is a television or radio blaring, refrigerator humming, washing machine grinding, dryer clicking, microwave oven humming, telephone ringing or people talking or singing?

If you are in an office, you become conscious of people conversing, telephones ringing, keyboards clicking and printers whining, all breaking the silence.

Step outside. Birds sing, squirrels chatter, cars roar by, lawnmowers grind, clippers buzz, garbage trucks rumble, emergency vehicles sound alarms…and so it goes.

All those I mentioned are just a few of the sounds that permeate our world today. You might be thinking of a few right now. What about your loaded coffee maker sputtering, then releasing the rich, dark liquid into the coffee pot? You might be conscious of your heating or cooling system functioning from room to room, or a gush of water rushing into the dishwasher you just turned on.

Just yesterday, I glanced at the bird clock on the wall in my kitchen. I knew something was missing. There was stillness with no movement. Long ago, I had removed the batteries that powered the bird calls trilling on the hour, and left a single battery to keep the time process moving. Now I am aware that the little clicks signaling the movement of the hands are missing.

We are so accustomed to the everyday sounds of our lives that we are not aware of all the noise around us. Most of us are not geared to silence. Many people flip on a television set as soon as their feet hit the floor every morning. Some jog with earphones clasped to their heads. We flip on a radio or insert a DVD to listen to music or audio books as we drive. We allow our minds to wander in dozens of directions, perhaps dispelling opportunities for silence.

Years ago, a man named John Haupt told me something I thought amazing. He and his parents were among early settlers from Europe who first settled in northern cities of the United States. They were later lured to Elberta in Baldwin County by an organization of German businessmen who wanted to form a German colony. Among a list of attributes of the area, the emigrants were promised “good wholesome air, cool Gulf breezes, pure soft water, excellent drainage, no snowstorms, cyclones, blizzards, hailstorms, locusts, drought, inundations, rocks or stones.”

At that time in the 1900s, there were few of the noisemakers we have today in our everyday life, such as all types of vehicles, heavy machinery, airplanes and helicopters.

What amazed me was Haupt’s statement that it was so quiet in Elberta you could hear the waves of the Gulf of Mexico roaring toward the beach in Gulf Shores from a distance of approximately 16 miles. Those Elberta immigrants who were unfamiliar with hurricanes upon their arrival soon learned the muffled roaring sound meant dangerous weather ahead.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.