Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous, grass wind and pine wind.

Sometimes you trip into something, something that is so big, and so right (this Sunday morning), that you don’t want to soil it by sharing a few excerpts. (But I’m going to do it anyway, of course.) I urge you to listen to Krista Tippett’s entire 51 minute interview with Gordon Hempton where the conversation is sprinkled with Hempton’s nature recordings. Hempton is an acoustic ecologist, a collector of sound all over the world. You can find the entire transcript and audio recording here: “Silence and the Presence of Everything.” I’ve shared a few passages below:


“OK. So I get out of my car, all right? We’ll still hear the pinging of its engine. We’ll hear other cars and other visitors, and we’ll hear the “beep-beep” of our modern world as people are locking their cars and the rustling of our artificial fabrics against our bodies. Some people will be chattering away on cell phones. But then the sound of my backpack goes over my shoulders, and we head off down the trail. And no more than 100 yards along these tall, tree-lined, ferned path with moss drapes that add sound-deadening to the experience, we’ll hear the call-off twitter of a Winter Wren, this very high-pitched twittering sound that might be coming from 100 feet away…And then we’ll hear further away the sound of the Hoh River that drains the Rain Forest echoing off the far side of the valley…And if we were taking this hike in the fall, we would hear the bugling of the Roosevelt elk… Up close, it’s actually quite a guttural, adrenalin-filled assertion of what it means to be male and wild. But when you hear this experience from a couple of miles away, isn’t that amazing? When you’re in a quiet place, your listening horizon extends for miles in every direction. When you hear an elk call from miles away, it turns into a magic flute as the result of traveling through this place that has the same acoustics as a cathedral. […]

Yeah. Oh, grass wind. Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous, grass wind and pine wind. We can go back to the writing of John Muir, which he turned me on to the fact that the tone, the pitch, of the wind is a function of the length of the needle or the blade of grass. So the shorter the needle on the pine, the higher the pitch; the longer, the lower the pitch. There are all kinds of things like that, but the two folders where I collected, I have, oh, over 100 different recordings which are actually silent from places, and you cannot discern a sense of space, but you can discern a sense of tonal quality, that there is a fundamental frequency for each habitat. […]

But I found the sound that I enjoyed most was the sound of the silence in the volcano. The measurement of decibels actually goes into the minus point, but there still is a sense of presence, of where you are. Then once you get over the rim of the volcano, you begin to pick up what I call the mantra of the islands, and that’s the distant beating of that drum called the Pacific Ocean. […]

We’re about to enter into a giant driftwood log. It’s a Sitka spruce log, the same material that’s used in the crafting of violins, and it has a special property where that, when the wood fibers are excited by acoustic energy — in this case, it’s the sound of the ocean itself — that the fibers actually vibrate. And inside, we get to listen to nature’s largest violin. […]

I was raised Episcopalian. And so that meant that every Sunday morning I woke up and had to take that dirty pair of shoes that I always wore to school and then put a fresh layer of shoe polish on them and then go to church. But I would have to say that sitting in church, I really had a hard time listening to the words. But I did enjoy listening to one thing, which is that everybody was coming together for a single purpose, and I particularly enjoyed the singing. […]

I really can’t say that I’m religious today, although I am spiritual. I don’t go to church that’s inside of buildings, but I do go to church that’s outside. My favorite church of all is what I call the “Cathedral of the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park.” It has the world’s tallest trees, over 300 feet high, and it’s there that the least amount of noise pollution intrudes of anywhere else in the United States. […]

Nothing shouts importance, and often I actually hike to One Square Inch of Silence (Olympia National Park) with another person and we agree not to talk while we’re there. And often the hike in is a chattery experience coming from urban lives, etc., but the hike out is hardly talking at all. And if we talk, we always whisper. Quiet is quieting.”

~ Gordon Hempton, from “Silence and the Presence of Everything” an interview with Krista Tippett (Onbeing.org, Dec 29, 2016)


  1. It is amazing how blogging has opened up so much of the world to us. How could we know these things 20 or so years ago? Thanks for being part of my journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Indeed, this IS gorgeous…I heard this on NPR and was transported.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow…
    The sound of the volcano!
    And I didn’t know violins were made of Driftwood. For the same reasons artist Deborah Bernier makes her pieces of driftwood.

    One of my happy silent places is in Canada. Peninsula de la Gaspesie, Mont Albert, Quebec. A cabin on a cliff looking at the Atlantic. I was the for 10 days. I had to drive far to find a restaurant. Ended up buying groceries and cooking in the cabin. And fall is the perfect time to be there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Grass wind, yes! Especially at the edge of a quiet lake.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cool article..Mr Hampton has gifted the world with an precious treasure, which we must hold in reverent awe…when I have time I will listen…I’ve been to the Olympic Peninsula, Rain -forest when I was a teen, a wonderful time camping on the beach,with my boyfriend’s large family, (6 girls some older and some younger than me and one boy, who I dated for six years!!) + me and their parents, the memories are flooding back, I arrived with two of the teenage sisters as we all had to work through Friday, we joined the crew after a long eventful drive! in a car that was from another era then, now considered a classic… Roosevelt elk I’ve seen in several states, huge…the sounds of nature so enthralling…the beach in La Push, Washington breathtaking…I read that La Push now has a resort, oh darn…it was wild and we just camped on the beach, I don’t think they had a beach campground back then…I feel so blessed to have seen so much beauty, breathed in so much oxygen rich air, enhancing negative Ions and love the quiet of the forests and the gifts of the forest sounds in my life…/// taking off in the morning, when we arrived we will unlock the gate, locking it behind us, leaving the normal day to day behind, and on to the log cabin along the River…so much has happened in our lives since June when we were last there, we won’t have any internet and spotty cell coverage …the following week we travel to the end of the continent…not sure where we will go the end of next month as we will be a celebrating, quietly.. ( hubby needs this vacation!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. should have edited “in my life” should be near the beginning of the sentence not at the end…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. this is as close as i can come to church.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Quiet is a “think tank of the soul.” Just a beautiful understanding of this space we can be in each day.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well I’ll be! I discovered singing grasses all on my own!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love this — one of my favorite verbs is “soughing” — the sound of wind in the trees. We live at treetop level (6th floor apt) and this time of year, as the leaves start to get crispy, the sound differs and sounds like taffeta skirts rustling.

    Krista Tippett is a treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Somehow this post slipped under the radar til now, but wow, pal, love it!! ‘Silence isn’t a luxury…it’s essential.’ Couldn’t agree more. Some of my favorite times are sitting drinking coffee in the pre-dawn hours, before many in the world (or even my own household) are stirring. The other morning there was an owl calling in the woods for nearly half an hour. The most mournful sound…. Taking a quiet walk in the woods with the dogs is also balm to the soul. *They* are so keyed in to the subtleties of their environs that it makes me pay greater attention. And of course, Krista Tippett is a rock star — she positively oozes inner peace…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So lovely


  13. So beautiful. I wrote my post yesterday and then, saw the link to this post at the bottom of your post this morning…

    What lovely sounds his words evoke!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Miracle!

    Liked by 1 person

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