Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Archive for May 2nd, 2008

City Noise or Saving Your Soul with Silence.

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Michelangelo once said, “I have never felt salvation in nature. I love cities above all”.

That’s all well and good considering the times he lived in. Nature was raw and unforgiving. In the countryside farming was a difficult way to earn a living. You laboured for the landowner, not yourself. In the cities most everyone’s livelihood was sourced from art, architecture and religion. Commerce was basic. Life moved at a snail’s pace back then.

There was a time when I sold my soul to the city. It was when I was young, building a career, a reputation and earning a living. As I grew older I felt the city was stealing my soul even though I was earning a good living. When it came time for me to give way and get out of the way, I knew I couldn’t stay.  So, I left Toronto behind and took my soul with me because it needed rejuvenation.

There was too much of everything in the city – people, crowds, competition, traffic, construction, a pervasive ‘have-you-seen-have-you-been-to-I-gotta’-have” attitude and above all noise.

The constant hum of movement 24/7 was relentless. Streetcars, buses and subway contributed in their own way. Sirens wailed. Citywide traffic congestion began before sunrise and ended after sunset. The sound of speed drifted up from the superhighways and hovered over the houses built nearby. Their only buffer came from towering walls that were supposed to absorb traffic noise.

If I were to heal my soul I needed peace and quiet.

Southampton gives me that.

From Thanksgiving to Victoria Day Weekend it sleeps undisturbed. Winter’s blanket muffles all sound. There is no noise per se. Just quietude.

We hear wind. And when it forcefully blows off shore, we hear the breakers on the beach. Geese signal their fall leaving and spring return. When they migrate back birds begin to sing at 4:30 in the morning. The odd dog barks. A car goes by every now and then. A guttural outboard hums along the river.

My vehicle is the only sound I hear as I drive leisurely through empty county roads, past rolling farm fields and wooded vistas. Rural silence.

From mid May to October we welcome the tourists and summer people who bring the big city noise with them. Weekends aren’t much fun. The noise level in town reminds me of where I used to live. But it all leaves by Sunday. That’s why they come, though, to have a good time and escape the confines of the city.

On the crowded beaches you can’t hear the waves breaking because of radios blaring. But we know a quiet place the tourists haven’t discovered yet.

Southampton is the silence I was seeking. It is close enough to the nature that Michelangelo didn’t want any part of and far enough away from the city life he loved so much. 

Where do you go in a big metropolis to find salvation? Maybe he was happy in cities because that’s where all his big commissions were. Who knows?

My salvation lives in the country. Smallness gives lift to my soul. Noise doesn’t follow me everywhere I go.


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

May 2, 2008 at 9:54 PM

Posted in thoughts