Chapter 1: Sound, Orientation and Sense of Place

Hear Here – Sound, Orientation and Sense of Place

As I sit here and soak in these waters, I listen to the silence that surrounds me. Lightly punctuated by a drip of condensation from above, or a bubble releasing from below, the quietude of a Sierra hot spring saturates me to the bone; the warmth of the water, the pulse of my heart, the absence of sound. It is late at night – perhaps 2 a.m. The heat from yesterday’s sun, rising up from the earth, has momentarily reached equilibrium with a gentle mist suspended beneath a low cloud cover. The night pauses, there is no breeze, it is dead silent.

As if to test this silence, I hear the choked cough of a red fox coming up from a close ravine. A cricket tentatively chirrups once… a few times… an owl inquires, a pebble falls into a ditch. Softly the night has shifted; the cool midnight air delicately exhales into the treetops of the surrounding ridgelines. This breath moves in and around slowly but purposefully, gently stirring the rushes in a nearby meadow, bringing on the slow seep of the dawn.

I come to these springs for the waters, but I also come for the silence. Though when I close my eyes it is not silence that I hear… just less sound… sounds I can almost count and identify; water, air, rock; the scraping of a beetle on a branch and the flutter of a moth against the sconce of a flickering candle.

When I leave the pools to sleep the alpine breeze whispers into my dreams as it mixes midnight into morning. I am stirred briefly awake by the first strains of the dawn chorus and the waking of the birds, returning to my slumber to be finally awakened by the murmur of human voices at a nearby camp; the sound of fire and cooking, metal pans and flatware, the cracking of eggs and the sputtering of sausage. The day has arrived and I am in it…