The simple fact is that our central nervous system is hardwired to respond to sound, in part as an early warning defence mechanism (listening for danger cues) and in part as a way of reading the landscape and finding surety and shelter in our surroundings (listening for safety cues). So a predator’s growl or a snapping stick behind us may trigger the flight or fight response but so too a gentle rustle of the trees or a babbling brook may quickly flick ‘the at home and safe’ switch.
In the modern world a car horn, house alarm or loud mouth across the street may replace the predator growl but no less trigger the same rise in heart rate and blood pressure and on the flip side of the coin, some pleasant music may stand in lieu of a babbling brook and release those pleasant hormones. The garden can present more gentle background noises, ones conducive to feeling a part of nature, of being at home in nature – the swish of plants, a soothing water feature, bird song, the industry of bees etc and ok the occasions of noisy neighbours or traffic sounds over your fence aside, it can be a very settling experience to just hear the garden. To allow its soothing signals to wash peace over us.
Is it true silence – the absence of noise – no, or at least not often – the debate is, is there such a thing – but it is a close approximation in the deliverance of serenity and it is the serenity that we often call silence, it is not the hearing, it is the surrender or the feeling.
We gardeners often tend in silence and get so deeply engrossed in our work that noise in the moment is filtered out of our consciousness but even when not aware of the sounds around us, the stimuli is still there and the hormones correspond. For the most part the garden is the absence of agitating noise. We natural come to peace with it. We don’t fear the silence as a greater absence, we don’t feel alone in it, we are at one with it.
Mindful meditations, spiritual contemplations, even many psychological exercises all seek to enable a peace with silence, a confidence in aloneness, an embracement of at oneness. And here it is, naturally abundant in the garden.