By Saba Long
Recently, I noticed my equilibrium has been unbalanced. The new year has been a constant barrage of time-sensitive calls and emails and double-digit hours of work each day. The fast pace has left me wanting.
In an attempt to quiet the mind and body, I have sought solace at Serenbe, or in town, at the Cascade Nature Preserve. Trekking deep into these places, I’ve been able to leave the city behind.
The sounds I hear are decibels lower than what my ears usually take in – baby potbelly pigs burrowing their noses into the damp ground or water traveling over a smooth rock.
The moments of silence are perhaps even more deafening than the noise. Even still, civilization creeps in with the sound of an airplane overhead or a car driving by.
Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton writes, “Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are. Left with a more receptive mind and a more attuned ear, we become better listeners not only to nature but to each other.”
I’ve always had an appreciation for nature – although, as a child I avoided summer yard work. But my desire for the hustle and bustle of city life has outweighed my interest in living in a more lush location.
With a few exceptions, I have lived my adult life downtown near Woodruff Park. The city’s sounds are endless – the engine of a delivery truck stopped at the traffic light below me, rabble rousers loitering on the south side of Broad Street, the wind wrapping around the building. A conference call interrupted by the noise of siren or car horn is not uncommon.
These recent respites from Peachtree to trees have been welcome steps towards balance and being in tune with life.
Last week while giving a talk to a leadership group, one of the attendees, a sustainability and education professional, discussed with me the high number of asthmatic children in the Perkerson Park neighborhood, walking distance from a new Atlanta BeltLine trail.
This weekend, while observing an 8-year old girl diligently drawing a portrait outside of her school at Serenbe, I was reminded of the southside students living in communities that constantly fight tire dumping, junkyards and other aesthetic and physical pollutants.
If I as an adult feel the need to seek out silence – or a much quieter pace – surely an elementary-age student experiences the same.
The built environment has a profound impact on our senses – silence, even more.