Quiet People

Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, taken by Wai Chee Wong

Gordon Hempton, the acoustic ecologist who speaks of finding and preserving that “one square inch of silence,” recounts how it typically goes when he takes a friend into the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park (the place Hempton refers to as his cathedral). On the hike into the lush, dense timber (Olympic is home to the tallest trees in North America, some over 300 feet tall), Hempton describes how there is often chattery conversation as they ease their way out of urban life and into an entirely other ecosphere. Yet on the return trek, after their encounter with the magnificence and the deep hush, there is barely any conversation – and if they do speak, it is always a whisper. “Quiet is quieting,” Hempton says.

The week of Dallas Willard’s death, one of Dallas’ philosophy doctoral students at USC recounted the numerous ways Dallas influenced him. The student, now an accomplished philosopher in his own right, made one observation I have been unable to shake. “In my five years studying with Dallas,” he said, “I found it almost impossible to be anxious around him.”

Quiet is quieting.



Hempton recorded the sounds inside a piece of Sitka Spruce driftwood on Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park as the tide poured over top. The sounds have been described as “surf plucking the inner hollows of a piece of driftwood to make them vibrate like the strings of a violin.” You’ll want to use headphones to pick up the nuance, but this is silence for the soul.

14 Replies to “Quiet People”

  1. This photo is just so beautiful….Winn, wrote this about that need for quiet. Loved your post…..just wanted to share this with you…
    Sometimes motion seems to justify our madness
    Moving constantly to capture our life and control all
    Our fears, compulsions and power in a way that will
    Propel progress forward no matter if good or bad.
    We text, we tweet, we send emails, we Google to find
    Information that will keep us present to the moments
    Exploding all over the world, whether we care about
    Them or not, as if we can do anything at all to change what is.
    The motion makes us feel productive and we identify
    Accomplishment with nothing deeper because that
    Would require space unplanned, unspoken, unfilled,
    And what would we do with ourselves if still and silent?
    Heaven are you there?  Heaven can you hear me?  Help!
    My soul is connected to wires and I have confused the digital
    with Life itself thinking that if I am plugged in, I am living
    When in fact, I only exist by reason of the convenient machines.
    If I disconnect, I might realize that my inner being is so
    Very thirsty and I am tired of being driven by deadlines and
    Messages from so many sources whose compassion and
    Interests flounder without the touch of a real person nearby.
    I will let go, I will let myself be if only for the sake of regaining
    A say in what will shape my heart and mind as I search for
    a meaningful life apart from these props that seem to hold me
    captive to a reality that has made me nothing but a slave.
    Quiet now, and I will practice a space of time where all is but a
    Breath to take, an eye to see, a creation to behold and freedom
    Can grow apart from the tentacles of technology which will always
    Try to trump the earthy humanity I know I am made of and can become.

    1. thank you, Rhodara. I find that poets are some of the best help in encouraging us toward quiet and attentiveness. So, keep at it…we need it.

  2. Absolutely lovely – your post, that picture, that silence and the poem in the comments, too. Feel like I’ve had an experience of quiet just reading. Thank you.

      1. I’ve been trying to figure out how to put it in a loop – I’ve played it 20 times in the last couple of hours!

  3. Alright, folks. Check this one out. Hempton narrates a hike through the Hoh Rain Forest, it’s about 4 minutes. See what kind of fun treats you get when you hang out afterwards for conversation.

    1. “Nothing shouts importance. . . ” wow. This is just wonderful. (though I’m not quite convinced that elk sounds like a magic flute, I love the bird song, the frogs, the water.) And you know what? I hear those things in my house and yard, especially at the end of the day as the street traffic dies off. . . Ah, it’s Krista. Shoulda known.

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