Updated: Sep 25
I start out walking through cicadas, thousands, millions, maybe billions of them — this is Arkansas so it’s hard to know — a tunnel of sound that roars so completely I’m sure every organ in my body can’t hear itself think. Within this sound, thickening and deafening at its peak, I keep moving until the crescendo abates, and now it’s just crickets. Crickets and a man laughing on his cell phone, leaning over his porch about 20 feet above me and laughing more when he sees me down below his Eureka Springs home, where life is more vertical than horizontal.
By the time I reach the grotto where the cold air pours upward in sweet relief (did I mention it’s 93 degrees and 200 % humidity?), something else: a young woman singing her heart out with a soulful tang while strumming her guitar, a man behind her fiddling in tune with her rising alto. They’re live-streaming a mini concert on a street empty of most humans but immersed in a cast of thousands of insects, birds, frogs, and surely just beyond the trees climbing the mountain, deer and other creatures.
Walking from the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow down the curving streets requires diligence and attention. The sidewalks buckle, break, crack between bundles of black-eyed Susans, echinacea, and other blossoms with such an ecstatic scent I almost fall over. Of course, not watching where I’m stepping (I’ve tested it before) can easily trip me to the ground. I walk into and out of multiple tunnels of cicadas rising to a fever pitch, then stopping just in time for the motorcycles stirring up abrupt sounds that make me jump. A tuxedo cat mews and winds itself around my ankles.
I pass the pond with the reclining Buddha just as two hummingbirds zip-buzz my head. Two men — about to head down multiple cement stairs from the ground-level floor of a house clinging for dear life to the cliff — stop in their tracks and stare at me. I nod, and they go on talking with that Arkansas twang about a project that involves pipes (art? plumbing? both?). A bird I can’t see and don’t know the sound of chatters in a high voice to another bird. Three sleeping dogs lunge to their feet and bark at me even as I tell them it’s okay and I love dogs.
Turning around to go back just as the street lights come on, the katydids take over, much faster and louder than home, infusing the air with what sounds like a cartoonish high-speed typewriter galloping to the end of the line, then starting another line. It’s a sound bath all the way back to the colony, and bath is a key word here because of what the humidity does to any of us out right now.
I once heard the quietest places on earth include the Hoh Rain Forest in the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula, but how can that be when the plant and animal world is teeming with language beyond words all the time? Surely, the most quiet places are the ones humans construct, soundproof, and cut themselves off from the living world to occupy. I choose to go outside, even in this heat, and listen to the lush music of the real world.