On a forest path in the early morning, sun filters through tall trees casting beams of light through the mist. The air is still. Fallen leaves soften the trail, the dirt still damp from earlier rain. With each stride, I ease into the day, listening to a chorus of natural sounds—insects chirping, frogs croaking, birds singing. Dripping leaves tap on the forest floor. A gentle brook cascades and bubbles. My mind becomes quiet. But, soon the morning will give way to the busyness of the day as the rest of the world wakes up, getting louder by the minute.

There is so much noise in our lives. Outside our windows a car alarm goes off, an engine rumbles and ambulances wail. Nearer at hand, our email pings and phones ring. Even when we’re not aware of it, it takes its toll. We wear noise-canceling headphones and play music to drown out sound with more sound. Even in the absence of acute noise, there’s a hum.

For many of us, the world is often too loud. Quiet is in decline. Each generation hears more noise than the last. As we populate the Earth and our mobility increases, so does the number of roads, highways and airplanes. We sprawl outside of cities, bringing the things with us we hope to ­escape. According to the World Health Organization, noise pollution contributes to stress, anxiety and depression. Research shows that prolonged exposure to low-frequency noise is physically and psychologically exhausting. And it’s not just noise that interrupts our daily lives. Our minds are also cluttered.

Chaos dominates the news. A pandemic keeps changing shape. Climate change is causing catastrophe after catastrophe. Housing costs have skyrocketed. The Supreme Court recently overturned a decision protecting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. As I write this in early 2022, Russian forces are murdering Ukrainians.

For me, only running truly quiets this noise. It feels necessary. It is necessary.

This essay was published in the Patagonia print journal in fall 2022.

All photos by Steven Gnam. Watch a short film edit and read the easy online.

 

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