Silent and Listen Are Spelled with the Same Letters
“…even in wilderness areas…the average [man-made] noise-free
interval has shrunk to less than five minutes during daylight hours.”
—Gordon Hempton, Acoustic Ecologist
It takes hard listening, what Inuits call
“Seuketat,” the ear of the animal…
Your breathing slows, resonates
so you can’t move or speak,
when the only sound is wind
whirring among the maples
and an overtone of light. You can hear
the difference between
locust leaves and oak, between pine wind
and meadow wind,
recognize the height and thickness
of grass blades,
hear smokebush tufts ruffling,
tree limbs quivering,
one pine needle singing
at its own decibel.
Even the moon speaks
in shifting tides,
the sun’s heat in ice melt, glaciers calving,
in snow’s hushed breath.
Streams announce their age
tumbling over older, slick stones,
in ripples and murmurs—
not the staccato sounds
of rough, jagged rocks.
Every tree species has its own voice,
each leaf pattering
and pinging at a different pitch—
down forest canopies for hours
after a shower stops.
You can hear a nuthatch flock
fluttering, a coyote’s
moonlit howl signing the air,
insect wings hissing
in night’s gurgling soundscape,
or a leopard’s guttural growl.
Silence—ocean surf playing
the inner hollows…of driftwood.