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November 22, 2000.
The Noise of the Engine
Real Audio

Long before this journey began, way back before it was even a possibility I went far out to sea one summer to a particular gully near Nova Scotia to see bottle nosed whales. On that trip I wrote the following which I am reminded of today as I sit in this boat making our slow way across the blue arc of the equatorial pacific.

"Our lives are embedded in the noise of the engine. Its deep vibrations make little surveys about the ship (like a night watchman checking the premises). They move from station to station testing things: setting into sympathetic vibration entire eager ensembles of enthusiastic instrumentalists: setting the plates to rattling, then the lid of the cookie jar, then the refrigerator door, then the bathroom door, then the toilet paper holder, the medicine chest doors, the windows in the pilot house, the bowls awaiting washing in the sink, the handles on a pair of camera boxes sitting idly by the dining table... then the leaves of that table, then the spoon in the captain's coffee mug, then the forks and knives in the utensil drawer-a symphony of eager participants, all would-be soloists each taking their cadenzas in turn-a kind of Symphony Concertante for plates, bowls, utensils, pot lids, doors, windows, medicine chests and... a diesel engine.

Through all this din the engine reigns supreme. It is the percussion and the brasses and the basses all together-all at super fortissimo, shaking and quaking the foundation of the boat and our lives 24 hours a day, from stem post to stern post, from keelson to truk.

I shall not soon forget the peace that finally reigned when, after 4 days of this unrelenting din we tied up to a quiet wharf in sleepy Larry's River, Nova Scotia, and finally... turned off the engine. The silence that descended was rhapsodic. I had forgotten that such a thing was possible. I sat, stunned, listening to that silence ring in my ears, hearing the tintinus subside, as peace flowed and seeped back into my world like the slow melting of snow beneath a warming sun.

And I thought; what if the riot of internal combustion engines and TVs and CDs and radios should stop-and the world return to its once peaceful self? I have heard that peace, but only by retreating far from civilization. Each year the distance one has to go grows greater and soon there may be no place on this earth where such quiet is left.

Silence is a loss I mourn. Noise seems to be the final destination towards which all humanity is Hell bent-noise and chaos is the state in which our grandchildren will have to live their lives. What will that do to them? What will it do to the earth?

2000 - Roger Payne

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