Robin ©Janet Allen
We especially enjoy the robin's song

One of the underrated qualities of a good life is quietness. Noise pollution can even affect our health, and it affects wildlife, too.

Quietness is increasingly hard to come by in today's world, and unfortunately, it's not something an individual can control.

One of the reasons I like to be an early riser is that the morning has a special quietness that's hard to come by the rest of the day. And the most likely break in the quiet is the songs of the birds visiting our yard.

Inside our home

iPod speaker ©Janet Allen
Our iPod speaker is often on when we're working in the kitchen

At least inside our home it's generally quiet. We listen to podcasts when working in the kitchen, but this is much quieter and less intrusive than television, besides being a way to keep up with topics of interest. (Some of our favorite podcasts are Diane Rehm, Talk of the Nation, and The People's Pharmacy.)

But beyond the obvious, we've gotten so accustomed to the sounds of our appliances and other devices that what appears to be silence isn't really. It's the aural equivalent of what we think of as darkness compared to the true darkness of the cave we visited at a national park on our western trip many years ago.

We're fortunate to be in a location that seldom has power outages, but when we do, the deep silence is one of the noticeable consequences. And it's a pleasure that compensates for the inconvenience.

Outside our home

Our old chipper-shredder ©Janet Allen
Our old chipper-shredder really made a racket before we discovered we didn't need it

The outside noises that intrude into our yard and home are many: cars and trucks going by, of course, but these pale in comparison with lawn care equipment (mowers, blowers, and weed whackers). No sooner does one end than the next begins.

Such is life in the suburbs, dominated by the lawn ethic and the quest for totally conquering the natural world.

Worse are the sounds of chain saws revving up: the noise itself is awful, but the reminder that so many large trees are being cut down—generally replaced with small ornamental trees—is painful.

Bees buzzing ©Janet Allen
We enjoy hearing the busy buzzing of the bees

Worst of all, though, are the sounds of motorcycles revving up and speeding down the street as noisily as possible. They can be heard many blocks away, disturbing many people's peace for their own momentary pleasure. Why are these things legal? Surely they could still move if they had a muffler!

Most of this noise could be reduced if communities just became more aware of the problem and understood the value of quietness.

It's ironic that so many people complain about birds (especially crows) singing or calling when so much obnoxious noise is being created by people.