I got some good reading in this afternoon while sitting on the deck, and I was really struck by this passage from The Magus:
"Sounds like the splash of a duck landing on the water...came across miles with a clarity that was first incredible--and then mysterious because, like a cry in an empty house, it seemed to make the silence, the peace, more intense. Almost as if sounds were there to distinguish the silence, and not the reverse."
Oh man, I just LOVE that. "A cry in an empty house." Considering my recent love of the sound of silence, I completely understand these few sentences, and know how jarring a loud sound can be when the predominant sound is...no sound at all.
Our neighbors across the street have a van that has a bad belt, and every morning--and often in the evening--we hear them start up the vehicle, and that belt whines like a cryin' child, carrying across our yard and into our house. I suppose I've gotten fairly used to it by now, but every time I hear it, I still say, "PLEASE get a new belt!" The peace and quiet here is shattered (sha-doobie) by such sounds.
When I'm sitting out on the deck, sometimes I hear a commotion in the woods. Something is rustling around in there. It usually ends up being a turkey, but sometimes it is a doe and her fawn. Sometimes it's something I wasn't expecting, like a towhee rooting around in the leaves. Tonight, I heard a rustle just outside the window, and it was a chipmunk. Such sounds do indeed make the silence more intense.
I've come to appreciate the sounds of my surroundings more than I ever thought I would. I suspect that the profound silence here at our place would unnerve those who are used to city sounds: sirens, traffic, noisy neighbors...but to me, these sounds--or lack thereof--are simply the sounds of peace.