According to my latest AARP Bulletin, noise is a (not very) silent killer. Several studies, as reported in Psychology Today, have indicated that chronic exposure to even the level of sound in nearby conversations and local traffic can boost stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rates – all potentially lethal effects.
My partner Randy and I hadn’t read the AARP Magazine article or seen the study results when we decided to make the hour drive up to Hot Springs, NC from our home in Hendersonville. We were just looking for a brief getaway to celebrate 10 years since our first date. Hot Springs is a small town (population 560) at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, famous for its healing mineral springs and the fact that the Appalachian Trail passes through the downtown, which also includes a brewery (of course), a few restaurants and art/craft galleries, and an old hardware store. So you don’t come for the downtown. You come for the activities, like rafting on the French Broad River, or hiking and biking on nearby trails. Or you can forgo the outdoor activities, as we did, and rent a cabin in the woods that includes a private outdoor hot tub filled with the famous warm mineral water.
Our cabin was on a farm, surrounded by other farms and framed by mountains. It was the most secluded of the three cabins on the property, nestled among tall trees, shielded from the gravel road leading to the other two cabins. The first thing we noticed after we parked and unloaded our car was the incredible, unusual quiet. Relaxing in the hot tub, soaking in the warm mineral water, we watched clouds pass overhead and the tops of trees moving in the breeze. Sitting on the screened porch, we heard only the soft sound of the woods. Sipping wine, we watched the day move slowly into night, saw the fireflies come out, and listened to the changing bird and animal sounds around us. That night, we realized we couldn’t find the lock on the sliding door that led out to the porch from the living room. Our peacefulness morphed into edginess as our isolation took another meaning. Are we too alone? We left the light on and closed the door to the bedroom. The next morning we reemerged into another day of quiet, and the woods, we decided, were our best medicine after all.
Lee Stevens enjoys writing, weaving, and Quiet time in Hendersonville, NC