The Ripple: White Noise

White Noise

Rivers flow through our lives both metaphorically and realistically – sources of drinking water, energy and transportation, but also as symbols of life “flowing like a river.” Rivers have been dammed, turned into lakes, or redirected into irrigation channels, among other human uses for them. We, as a species, tend to take them for granted, using them as a way to rid ourselves of our waste – out of sight, out of mind – with little regard for the other animals and plants which live within their banks.

If our lives do indeed flow like a river, we owe it to the source of the metaphor to respect and honor these bodies of water for their importance in our lives and the myriad of species which depend on rivers for sustenance. Just the sounds of a river, or stream, can elicit a sense of well-being, of calm in the frenzied state of modern human life. Spend time without electronic devices, and sit next to a river taking in the birdsongs, the water’s movement, the splash of fish and other creatures, and you, too, will feel the connection between humans and water. The sounds of water are often recorded as “white noise” to block out the cacophony of sounds and thoughts flooding our minds when we desire sleep, and nothing can surpass the calming sounds of flowing water in the moment. 

Without water, all life on our planet would cease to exist. We are not adapted to other worlds, but our origins are intertwined with the abundance of water on this planet. The phenomenal biodiversity of life owes water a debt of amazing proportions. Plants and animals have adapted to extract water even from a dewdrop on desert sand, or wait patiently for years to be brought “to life” by rainfall, as in places like Australia’s Outback.

We must not allow ourselves to take our rivers for granted and become complacent of the harm that we perpetrate, for these carve the earth and have enriched and sustained life on this planet for millennia.

[Photo credit: Phoebe Gelbard. The Dead Branch of the Westfield River, Indian Hollow, Chesterfield, MA]


Phoebe Gelbard

Phoebe is a teacher at Biocitizen and is currently studying environmental psychology and natural resources conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Phoebe has lived in the Pioneer Valley for all 19 years of her life, and when she is not leading young children through the rivers and woods of Western MA, she can be found doing the same with her friends and family. Check out this monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!



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