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Boreal Community Media

A SURFEIT OF NOISE: an essay from local author John A. Bragstad

May 04, 2023 09:30AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Andraz Lazic 

By local author and writer John Bragstad for Boreal Community Media - May 4, 2023

“Silence is a profound melody for those who can hear it above  the noise.” Socrates

To stand alone along some quiet road leading to the interior,
particularly at night, is one of the rarest experiences we can have
in today’s society. The quiet is profound and deep and broader
than the Grand Canyon.

The article “A Surfeit of Noise” is about the opposite of that and
how we can find reprieve from the beating down we take in the
course of everyday living.


The former owners of our home had the wisdom to name our
place “Selah.” Do you know what it means? Roughly, it is the
“silence between the notes.”

Try it sometime. Listen to a piece of music or go outside and
listen for the sweet sounds between the melodies, for what
happens when the birds stop their caroling.

You will be surprised at how this accentuates and brightens what
you hear. As with many things, lacking one thing makes the
other more noticeable and valued.

A surfeit of noise - how the sounds of everyday life can so
bombard us. We don’t hear the “silences between the notes”
either because we don’t listen for them or they are drowned out.

Dark Skies are prominent now as we come more and more to
value this. We are designated as Dark Sky country. The
pervasiveness of light in modern life is putting darkness in

It may be the same with sound. Should we not have some
committee that could make silences equally as prized in a world
increasingly filled with the business of commerce, the roar of
engines, the hum of travel, the barrage of voices and

Here, while the breezes play high in the trees, we still need to
quiet our thoughts to listen for the deeper stillness nature holds.
It may be a decision to stop and redirect our attention to truly

Living along the shore, just the sound of the waves can be
locomotive loud. And the wash against the rocks and the assault
of movement on our beaches can seem continuous. 

But this is the noise of the natural world. Yes, it is pounding, but
it is also a celebration of the wild fury of water unleashed from
any restraint.

The trafficked world is different. Here, the music of wild
sounds can be almost eliminated if we allow our worries and
activity to distract us. Stopping all that to listen for what is not
being presented to us is an act of courage in a society driven to
play to the moment.

There is nothing like the deep silences of the forest so available
to us who live here, preserved by the BWCAW and the
Wilderness Act. How valuable it is if we don’t bring our stuff to

Selah - the silences between the notes - are rarely heard in a
society saturated by the brash symphony of sounds forever
pressing at our ears, demanding our attention.

We have a choice, sometimes, to step aside, not only to notice
the silences but, in noticing, to anticipate what next surprise the
quiet has in store for us.

‘Selah’ is a Hebrew word referring to a voluntary and
intentional pause for reflection.

About the author

John A. Bragstad has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch.

He has written three books: Compass Season, Loon Laughter at Midnight, and Who's Watching Whoo? They are available in Grand Marais at Drury Lane and Lake Superior Trading Post, or at

Meet your Boreal Community Media Freelance Journalist: John Bragstad
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