Debating the Value of Traffic Noise

This meadow would be almost quiet if not for a nearby Glacier Highway. During breaks in traffic, Aki and I can hear siskins and junkos busy hunting in alders and damaged pines. A jagged line of mountain peaks show above the tops of a spruce forest that starts on the other side of the highway.

Dense snow covers the muskeg even though the temperature is already well above freezing. Aki rolls in the sugary snow as I study a straight line of tracks left by a large canine this morning. Should we follow what could be wolf tracks or pass through a screen of alders to visit a watercourse controlled by beavers? 

            Remembering the large beaver dam on the other side of the alders, I lead the little dog to a narrow but deep creek. Upstream is otter country. But recent warm weather has destroyed the otter’s slides. 

A few meters downstream is a beaver lodge mostly hidden by snow. Water cascading over the beaver dam blocks the road noise. I’m struck with the parallel of this meadow visit to a walk across land bordering a train line. When on trains in Europe, Britain, Scandinavia, or Japan, I find myself staring at these waste lands. Some look wild enough to shelter otters or badgers. On a ride through the Sami country of Sweden, a small herd of reindeer raced my train. Around cities, the railroad border lands have been divided into garden allotments. I imagine siting in the doorway of one of the little allotment shacks, sipping coffee from a thermos mug, watching tomatoes swell in the summer sun. 

Does the noise of rushing trains annoy an allotment gardener like today’s traffic noise bothered me, or does it carry away urban stress like a river, like spring melt rushing over a beaver dam? 

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