They’re all heading more or less towards the west right now. It so happens that Newfoundland is right along the path of most transatlantic flights between North America and Europe. There are a lot of them. All day long, no matter where you are in our sparsely-populated place all you have to do is look up. Chances are you will spot at least one flight and generally three to five are visible at any given times, assuming there’s no cloud cover, of course. But you always hear them.
As I type this, sitting on my back deck a somewhat noisy Airbus 330 just overflew St. John’s making its way from Manchester to Orlando, the passengers no doubt eagerly anticipating a few days in the hot sunshine. I checked: it’s currently 21 C in Manchester and 24 C in Orlando so maybe the change will not be as pronounced as expected but, I suppose there’s always the great Craft Beer Festival on the 11th, something I’d even consider hitchhiking down to see…after all it wouldn’t do to drive, it being a BEER festival and all. Here’s another, this time a Delta 767 from Paris heading to NY. That one was fairly quiet; I barely heard it. It never stops.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon and the temperature here is 19 C and, yes, I’m out on the deck and, yes, it’s supposed to be a work day. So why am I here? Retired? No, not until after August. Sick? Yes, sort of. It’s a cold. Not a man-cold, mind you, just one with enough symptoms to make me heed the same admonition I give to co-workers who insist on martyring themselves, “Why didn’t you just stay home and keep your germs to yourself?” Well I did. There’s nothing much stopping me from working—I am in eLearning after all—except for a general disposition not to do so today.
So out here on the deck it is just me, this laptop, Two and his book.
And the sounds! There’s a bit of a breeze; there always is. It’s stirring the trees behind the house. Spruce and fir mostly so they always present a barrier and the resulting turbulence gives an ever present swish; the background noise to my life here. It being mid-day the birds are relatively quiet, only the odd one here and there. You should hear them in the mornings and evenings, though! No squirrels right now. I’m thankful that those “rats with cute little tails” are not so plentiful as they have this thing about my shed, the contents within it and, of course the recycling. But then again, this is their planet too and they wouldn’t be this close if the developer was not on the other side of the hill busily putting houses everywhere he can cram them in.
Those sounds too: hammers, saws, excavators, trucks. Fortunately the trees and the hill do a decent job of muffling them. Not entirely though.
And the road; a few hundred metres away, through the trees and down the hill lies the always-busy Kenmount Road. Lots of traffic now; it’s constant, so much so that all you really hear when you listen are the punctuation marks: sirens, Jake Brakes and, my least favourite, Crotch Rockets. On days when the road is wet it gets louder, of course.
Sometimes it gets annoying. The sounds of nature are always welcome but the other ones, the sounds of industry/civilization, not always so.
But this is Newfoundland and Labrador after all. We are sparsely populated—three times the size of Great Britain and less than one present of the population. It’s not hard at all to get away from the normal sights of civilization. I could, for example, just enter the woods behind my house or, better still, climb into the forest on Kenmount Hill. There I might even spy one of those moose or maybe even those elusive loons I’ve been looking for.
There would still be the unwanted sounds, though. The construction and the cars—there’s no escaping them within the confines of the city.
Fine. I could instead just go in the car and maybe take one of the many side roads that wind for kilometres into the country, maybe even the old railway bed.
Still sounds. The old roads are a haven for the many off-road enthusiasts who love tearing through the back-roads on their quads, dirt-bikes, expensive four-wheel-drive trucks and, in the winter, snowmobiles. And the builders—there’s scarcely a road where they can’t be found building a cabin (you probably refer to them as cottages) for someone.
We still have an out, though. This province is immense and, yes, under-developed. I can easily just take one of those quads or a boat and head out there to where there’s nobody at all. How’s that? From there you can get the birds, the animals the wind and, if you want, the ocean sounds too.
But wait—the airplanes! Right now there’s a giant Air France Airbus 380 heading from Paris to New York. When it’s gone there’ll be another, and then another. It never ends.
What has ended is the existence of true quiet spaces in my province. And, no, the sounds are not always that bad—modern high-bypass jet engines are much quieter than the ones they’ve replaced. It’s just that they all serve as a constant reminder that there are very few places of true solitude left on our planet.
This evening there will be a lull then slowly the traffic will build again. All night long they will be heading east, back to Europe.