If 2020 had a sound, it surely had to be that of nails scraping against a chalkboard as a baby with colic wails and a dog barks and a car alarm sounds and a novice musician positions her trumpet right next to your ear.
It was the worst year and it has bled into 2021, carrying with it so much non-verbal noise that we need to find silent refuge.
Last spring, while days were longer and warmer, just as the pandemic began to take hold, I stepped outside of my home and heard a most amazing sound, one that jettisoned me back decades, to when I would walk to school and right by a little farm smack in the middle of a growing Abbotsford.
Last spring, when I stepped out of my Batchelor Heights home, I heard mooing. I had either stepped into a Far Side cartoon or those were honest-to-goodness cows on the grasslands hill precisely one block from my house.
Sure, Kamloops is surrounded by spectacular nature featuring a soundtrack of countless animals’ calls, but for urbanites like me, who do not camp, hunt or otherwise spend a lot of time in the Great Outdoors, those moos were moving.
They grounded me and, as I stepped into the grasslands for a short hike and came face to face with these bovines, and heard their chatter up close, it truly was calming.
A few months later, I stepped out of my pad and heard different sounds altogether — the beep-beep-beep of a big truck reversing, the ping! ping ! ping! of a metal on metal and the grunts and groans of bulldozers and excavators.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion crews were beginning their work, lining up a path for pipe right where the cows had grazed.
From milk to oil, the sights and sounds of my area had changed.
The sounds of the pipeline crews are not offensive. They have a lyrical quality of their own, like an industrial music band passing through town.
Since Dec. 17, though, when pipeline work was halted due to safety issues, those sounds have been muted.
The grasslands today are silent, which is what we need elsewhere, for a noise of another kind continues to hammer our thoughts and raise anxiety levels.
From COVID-19 to Donald Trump to Justin Trudeau to potholes to snow removal to John Horgan to late dog licence fees to conspiracy theories — the letters and words and sentences that consume newspapers, radio programs, TV news broadcasts and great swaths of the internet have become overwhelming.
I am in the news business. I live it and breathe it 24/7 and even I recognize the need to shut it off now and then.
It seems as though decorum died when social media was born. I’ve seen a Twitter thread discussion about the weather devolve into threats of physical violence. The sounds of social media can be deafening as they bombard our brains with far too many “facts” that do nothing more than disagree with each other.
Vaccines for COVID-19 will end the pandemic. Nope, vaccines for the disease will not work. The people who stormed the U.S. Capitol were domestic terrorists. Nope, they were brave patriots risking their lives to defend democracy. City snow-clearing crews are unsung heroes. Nope, they are simply ice wall builders.
The noise never ends. Indeed, it only gets louder and louder as it amps up the stress.
So, yes, keep up on news from reliable sources, but perhaps put down the paper, close the browser and turn off the TV now and then.
Step outside — you may hear some sounds that soothe.