Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Got Noise?

I was reading the Costco Connection today. That's the magazine Costco sends out to its members every month. It usually has some pretty good articles, in addition to ads for products they're pushing to sell. Today I read an article called The Sound of Silence by Penny Musco. The subtitle is: Noise pollution has lasting health effects. It's really interesting. If you'd like to read it, they have it online. It's on page 57.

It's starts off by saying the word noise comes from Latin, which originally means nausea. That, alone, is interesting. It goes on to explain how noise is actually making us sick in ways such as hearing loss, sleep deprivation, impaired task performance, cardiovascular disease, etc. I mean ... just think about it. Stop right now and listen. What do you hear? How many different sounds or noises can you pick up?

When I lived in California, one of my biggest complaints was the noise from my neighborhood. I lived on a very busy road, and even though our house wasn't right on the street, the noise was unbearable. Traffic zoomed by constantly. The usual commute hours were horrible. I knew it was bad, but I didn't realize how bad until I went back in 2009 to visit. Sure enough, right between 7am and 9am, it was a constant, "ZOOM! ZOOM! ZOOM!" of cars rushing by. I don't know how I lived with that for so long.

We also had an unusual amount of crows that loved the pine trees in our back yard. Now normally, the sound of birds doesn't bother me too much, although I have been known to moan and complain about them. Those crows were relentless. It sounded like there were 1000 of them up in that tree, all squawking and carrying on. We also had a lot of Western Scrub Jays, and like all jays, those were very noisy birds. Even so, the birds were nothing compared to the zooming of the traffic on my road.

I have to admit, the noise at my Montana house is a lot less. I live at the end of a dead-end road, so the only traffic coming around are my neighbors or the occasional airplane overhead. We have a lot of birds and they can be incredibly noisy, especially the robins who insist on waking the whole world up at 4am. However, if you were to sit on my deck and close your eyes, most of the time all you'd hear is a mixture of birds -- robins, chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, ravens, and occasionally an eagle, hawk, or gaggle of geese flying by. The squirrels tend to be rather noisy, but they entertain me more than annoy me. And many times I've been snuffed at by deer or bears. The forest is a noisy place -- a good noise.

I'm not one of those people who can write while listening to music. Often I see my writer friends talking about their playlists and what songs they listen to when they're writing. I can't do that. I have to have absolute silence when I write, even if it's for a picture book. I've never been one to leave the TV on for background noise, although I know many people who do that, including my mother-in-law. My mom often played music in the house when I was growing up. It didn't bother me then, but it's not something I do today.

For those of you who know how much I love music, you might be surprised to hear that I don't have it blasting away all the time. When I do listen to it, I'm usually walking on my TreadClimber, peddling on the recumbent bike, or driving in the car. Occasionally, I'll lie on my bed and listen to my iPod, but it's not a regular thing. Also, I very RARELY have music playing aloud -- I listen to it almost exclusively through my headphones. The only exception to that is when I'm in the car. And because of the headphones, I tend to play my music at the highest level, causing probably way more damage than I'd like to think about.

Music aside -- I'm a quiet person. I love quiet. I need quiet. Excessive noise makes me want to grind my teeth and smash things. If you want to watch me go all psycho, play a couple of Cher songs while I'm at the grocery store. It's not pretty. The picture above is how I like to spend my days. It's a bit deceiving though because it wasn't as quiet as it looked -- between my boys squealing in the water and motorboats zooming by. I was so much happier when we headed out onto a quiet river with absolutely no one around us.


  1. I'm like you, no music while I'm writing. Distracts me from what my characters are trying to tell me.

    And, I think there's a big difference between natural and man-made noises. I think man-made noises can definitely be damaging. But nature made? I think not. In the islands there is the lovely music of frogs, geckos and crickets that sing all night long. In Texas, the song of cicadas in the summer. I find them soothing.

  2. Rena,

    Thanks for referencing my article. I'm glad you liked it. It was interesting to write!