The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Stop, hey, what's that sound?

By Craig Terlson

I am taking a step away from my regular posting ("What I've learned about writing, thus far.") to ponder a recent phenomenon.

I try to take daily bike rides, I should add, when the weather is warm. Living in Winnipeg, I have a small window of time.
But like most Winnipeginitotians, I scurry outside and try to soak up the tiny morsel of good temperatures, sun and no bugs (yet) that we enjoy this time of year.

There is a gorgeous bike trail that runs along the Assiniboine river, dipping in and out of wooded areas, down hills that are easily navigated by older riders, yet give enough thrills to make you feel like you're not ready for the home just yet. The trail eventually spills out into the expanse of Assiniboine Park, where sweaty youths full of Jolt Cola chase Ultimate Frisbees, long fly balls are hit to centerfield, happy dogs loll their tongues, and joggers share the road with kids taking their first steps on roller blades.

As I ride, the day's stresses melt off me. I love just staring at the sky and the multitude of green shades that inhabit the trees. When I paint trees I think about those bike rides, yet I am always disappointed that I can't match that vibrant green of elm leaves in sunlight. As I said in one of my stories, no one has figured out how to put light in a tube.

The phenomenon that I mentioned is the ipod. Let me make it clear that I am a musician. I love music of all kinds, my day in my studio is spent listening to everything from Lynard Skynard, Tragically Hip, Neil Young, Wilco, to Miles Davis, Jobim, Stan Getz, Mozart, Satie, and Death Cab for Cutie (at my son's insistence). But when I am outdoors, I go unplugged.

I don't understand the need to close off the outside world. Sure, I love those nature sounds of the river burbling, or trees whishing and birds chirping – I wouldn't be surprised if someone out there has downloaded nature sounds to listen to during their urban run; but I also love the sound of my tires on the road, the clack of roller blades, and kids making primal screams when they leap over the pit section of the ride. Just to tangentially say, I take a wide berth around that part – nostalgic for a time where I also spent hours trying to break my collarbone – but glad that I've gotten over that desire (mostly).

I pass the joggers zoned out with ear pods firmly embedded – the ones that don't hear my bell as I try to pass. And bikers wearing headphones are just goofy. Call me nutty, but I am riding in a city and I like to hear that delivery truck pulling up behind me.

Safety aside, I just don't get the need to enclose yourself in an anti-Maxwell Smartian-cone of silence machine so that you can… what? Relax? As a writer I need to soak up my environment, that includes all its aural pleasures. Not only is it relaxing, it's damn near transcendental.

Yesterday, while riding, I heard a small girl say to me. "Hey, I like your helmet." I wear this ancient Vetta bowling ball thing that makes me look like I might have done some goose-steeping in those 1940 war films. I said, " Hey, thanks." Then she giggled.
That giggle, as warm as the sun drenched leaves I've been talking about, made my day – and if I were plugged in, I would have missed it.
I didn't.


Blogger Patricia said...

This is lovely Craig, it's art, really, the way you have painted a picture of your surroundings, I was right there hearing the things you describe and I so agree, the sounds of the outdoors, of allll the outdoors, maybe for us more beacause we are writers and perhaps pay more attention, I like to think that we still live in wonder. Nearly everyone I work for is from Winnipeg. I have to tell them to read this. Thank you so much for the great post, spent most of today in our backyard, this is the perfect end to my weekend.

Mon May 29, 01:08:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Lovely post, Craig! And you're right about all the beautiful sounds... they're just as important as the vitamins we soak up from the sun.

Mon May 29, 08:34:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous mark heath said...

Bike riding? Now I know why you don't answer my emails immediately.

I rarely walk unplugged. I have a hard time taking a shower without the radio blasting over the water in my ears, or listening to music while I brush my teeth.

But there is an immensity to silence. It can feel almost too large to hold or understand. On those occasions when I'm home and the radio is off, the tv is off, and the computer is shut down, time seems to stop. It's disconcerting and overwhelming, like the sudden absense of sound and orientation when a wave knocks you under the water.

I'd rather paddle in the shallows of my ipod.

Wed May 31, 02:56:00 pm GMT-4  
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