The New York Times recently featured an article in the opinion section titled The Joy of Quiet, by Pico Ayer. I have actually had it sent to me by several people, and today, when I went over to the island for coffee, I had a chance to appreciate what a special place Dewees is, in terms of finding quiet. The basic premise of the article is unsurprising; people need time to disconnect with all their connecting devices and experience the absence of electronic media. Forgive the irony of my writing, (and your reading) this on those very intrusive devices for a second… Dewees gives us that chance to really unwind.
As I headed to the island, a pair of dolphins leaped into the bow wave, and hovered there for half the journey, occasionally looking up at me as I leaned out to watch them. (This wasn’t actually quiet; the thrum of the ferry engines, the wind, the gulls, the splashes all made noise… but I WAS unplugged.) Arriving on the dock, there was a loon and a pair of grebes near the rice trunk. Once the ferry turned to go back, the hush was awesome. Along Old House lane, the tiny rhythm of a woodpecker was audible, as was the flurry of wings. The ponds behind the impoundment were filled with Widgeons and Mottled Ducks, American Coot and Common Moorhens, and they all quacked and whistled and splashed as I attempted to sneak up on them without breaking too many twigs to startle them. And the Wednesday coffee group generally sounds like raucous laughter as we make real connections rather than electronic ones.
The article talks about the real value of places like ours:
…after spending time in quiet rural settings, subjects “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper.” More than that, empathy, as well as deep thought, depends (as neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have found) on neural processes that are “inherently slow.” The very ones our high-speed lives have little time for.
We are fortunate indeed.