Stok Footage

Continually experimenting with new ideas and techniques — Reconstructing, Developing, Modernising.

A Quiet Life (… or not.)

One of the minor pleasures of summer, especially a cooler summer like this one, is my walk to and from work. I get a good half hour to listen to podcasts, music, or just reflect on the world. In the morning it is a delightful break between the demands of a cat to be fed and watered and the sapping challenge of maintaining focus in a large open-plan office abuzz with distraction and occasional inspiration, and in the afternoon the walk is an opportunity to decompress before getting home.

In the morning I have energy and enthusiasm to spare, and some Radio 4 podcasts, or maybe some jazz is my preferred audio diet. The day is young, I have a sense of optimism and possibility. Maintaining the volume level so that I can hear what I’m listening to has made me realize how loud city noise can be, and remembering to turn the volume down again reminds me how quickly I get acclimatized to the new “normal” volume level. The fiddling is worth it – many morning walks have rewarded me with delight and fresh insight into tracks I hadn’t really listened to, revealing hidden depths in music I considered familiar.

On the way home in the afternoon I am in a different mental place. (Relatively) popular music from rock-ish groups of the 1970s and 1980s seems designed to overpower ambient noise and bludgeon the mind into a welcome state of acquiescence. This is the reliable familiarity of a favorite armchair or a TV rerun – external noise is no distraction as the material is ingrained. Attempting to concentrate on the music would destroy the soporific effect.

Usually my afternoon walk is a mourning walk. I am keenly aware of missed opportunities, and I wonder how to stop the tide of ambient noise swamping me. After a rare good day I’ll watch the world as I walk home, no artificial distractions, just being present on the way home.

One of the greatest pleasures of my life is coming home to my wife. The “successes” and “failures” of the day fall into perspective. This is our space, quiet but not silent, where every word seems worthwhile; I can unknot, be fed, and belong.

After a tranquil night’s sleep tomorrow will be full of possibilty and opportunity.

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