White Noise

I crave the quiet.

On Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday, I awoke to a city that was still asleep – everywhere. There were no cars on the street, no people milling around, no construction crews backing up trucks…  The planes overhead also on a break. Not a sound in the sky. The birds, not being disturbed, slept in as well. Not a peep.

I wish it was like this all the time. Quiet. I’ve been told, more than once, I’m overly sensitive. And yes, sounds pierce my ears in levels I assume only dogs can understand. I’ve been to doctors to make sure it’s nothing more. My ears are perfectly fine. A diagnosis like Hyperacusis or Misophonia does not apply. Though, in so many ways I wish they did. Being a light sleeper would make so much more sense.

But the fact is, the absence of noise is not very common. It’s rare. There’s always some sort of sound coming from somewhere. Even when I lived in Vermont, in a sparse small town with little traffic of any kind – the noise of the crickets at night cringed at my soul. I had numerous sleepless nights going to school there – until one day my roommate bought a fan and introduced me to a different kind of noise, ‘white noise’.  Life-changing.

And yet, white noise is still noise. If you sit quietly right now, wherever you are, what do you hear?  I bet at first you don’t hear much at all, but then, when you really think on it, you hear what behaves like background noise – if you sit and listen, you can pick out the details. I hear the hum of a refrigerator, my neighbor playing with her dog, the footsteps of someone walking past my front door and living room windows. I can hear a car starting in the garage, the pitter-patter of water dripping after someone watered their plants… a plane just went by overhead.

On the one hand, there’s a comfort in knowing others are around. And yet, what I’d give to hear quiet, like this early morning when I awakened before dawn and enjoyed a soothing nothingness of peace on a holiday when the world slept in for just a bit.

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