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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: South America (02/05/09)

TITLE: Noisy Quiet
By Joanne Sher


"What are you doing up there?"

My husband, three inches taller than I am, is looking up at me, probably convinced I'm insane. And maybe he's right.

"It's beautiful from up here."

He chuckles. "It had quite an impact on you, didn't it?"

I nod. "Come on up."


I've never known quiet to be so noisy before. It's a good thing I'm exhausted.

The mattress looks inviting, but I suppose I should get out of these clothes first. It certainly can't hurt, with the sweat dripping down my body.

I peel off my boots, knee socks, pants, long-sleeved shirt, and, of course, my hat. I slip into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt--an outfit much more fitting for the air temperature.

I examine the bed for creepy crawly things. Finding none, I smile. I stretch out on my cot and look straight up. At least I can't see the sky.

Don't get me wrong--I like a star-studded view as well as, if not better than, the average person. But if I had to choose between protection from the elements and those beautiful twinklers, there's no contest. Dry is definitely my preference.

You see, it's supposed to rain tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. You get the picture. Walking around in it is one thing. But trying to sleep? Can't imagine it's doable: at least not for me.

It's not like I'm a victim of false advertising. This is the rainforest, for goodness sake. It's not like I was expecting five-star accommodations or bright, cloudless skies. When I offered to pay my own way to go on an Amazon rainforest adventure with three dozen middle schoolers, just so I could write a story for my local paper, and maybe get published in a national magazine, I knew I wouldn't be ordering room service. But somehow, the ruggedness--the roughness--of it, didn't hit me, until now.

Oh well. Part of the adventure, I suppose. I close my eyes and listen to that noisy quiet.

My ears are practically overloaded. There are at least a dozen different sounds, none of which appear to be man-made. The croak of frogs sounds familiar, but the other noises are completely foreign. Birds, perhaps? Maybe a monkey? Some animal I've never seen? Most likely. But perhaps, before the end of the week, I will.

I don't think I have ever been this enveloped in God's creation: certainly not since I acknowledged Him just five months ago. Nearly everything around me is evidence of His handiwork. How could I have ever believed this was an accident: a series of random scientific processes?

I think back over the day. The airports were a madhouse: especially O'Hare. The tween chatter didn't help much either. However, the beauty of the Andes as we soared above them did. And what a contrast between where we'd spent the first part of the day and the sparseness and primitivity of the Iquitos, Peru airport. I laugh, remembering the monkey on the shoulder of the elderly woman, and the fact that it almost grabbed the hat off my head. Then there was the hour-plus canoe ride up the Yarapa river, and the incredible view of the native people and wildlife along the shorelines.

Once we arrived at our home for the next week, we were all quite eager to get our legs moving. The plants were so vibrant. Even the insects were more brilliant in color. I was so engrossed; I didn't even notice the heat.

I focus again on the many noises of the wildlife around me, trying to guess what each animal sound is in turn. I may never know if I'm right, but it doesn't hurt to guess.

I have a feeling this is going to be quite a trip.


"Come up there? No thanks." He sits on the ground and looks up at me perched in our tree. "You just enjoy it yourself."

"I will." I close my eyes and listen to this different noisy quiet. Sure, I hear cars zooming past our house. But my ears, perhaps sensitized over the past week, pick up at least two different birds, the wind rustling through the leaves, and the movement of the grass as my husband shifts on the ground. For a moment, I forget I'm in my own front yard.

It was here waiting for me. Too bad I had to go all the way to the Amazon to realize it.

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This article has been read 1087 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 02/13/09
Fascinating perspective.
Seema Bagai 02/13/09
I liked the perspective the MC had in this piece.
DiAnna Steele02/14/09
I liked the time lapses and the unusual flow of this story, like pushing the pause button to rewind a mental video. Very descriptive and accurate! I took my son to the rainforest for his 18th birthday and your story brought back vivid memories.
Leah Nichols 02/16/09
A great entry and perfectly on topic. I agree - the flashback fits right in and then the beginning makes sense. Well done!
Eliza Evans 02/16/09
Oh wow. I love that last line. Good job. Creative take.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/17/09
This is really well done. You took us on a journey to the rain forest as well as to personal discovery. Topnotch writing!
Jan Ackerson 02/17/09
Excellent, Joanne! I've missed your writing here, and this charming story definitely lives up to the promise of its awesome, oxymoron-ed title.
Glynis Becker02/17/09
Travel makes you appreciate home, doesn't it? Great story, simple and profound.
Catrina Bradley 02/17/09
This reminds me of listening to the "quiet" in my Georgia back yard. Very creative -- writing about the sounds of South America! I wish I could hear them.
Laury Hubrich 02/18/09
I LOVED this entry. Loved the descriptions. Loved loved loved the ending! Awesome writing.
Dee Yoder 02/18/09
I think even my own backyard is noisy at night! I can just imagine what it must sound like in the rain forest. What an experience that had to have been. Wonderfully descriptive story, Jo. I could easily see the trip through your eyes.
Diana Dart 02/18/09
The ending was fantastic!!! Loved it. The whole piece is engaging, with simple, quick descriptions that captured my imagination. And that ending.... loved it.
Shirley McClay 02/18/09
I always love reading your stories. This one really hit home with me. I also love to stop and listen to sounds and to really absorb what is going on around me.

The only thing that caught my attention was this sentence... "There are at least a dozen different sounds, none of which appear to be man-made." Its nit picking but appear is a visual word. It stuck out to me as not fitting so I thought I'd mention it just to be helpful ;-)

Great story, Joanne! I read it through a couple of times cause it was so awesome!

Bryan Ridenour02/18/09
Your entry is going to challenge me to listen. I know we all miss out on so much, even in our own backyards, that God has created.
Chely Roach02/18/09
This was beautiful...nothing makes you appreciate home more than being away from it! Well done!
Angela M. Baker-Bridge02/19/09
Sound details are just as important as sight details to put the reader into the story...you did it so well in this descriptive, fun piece.
LauraLee Shaw02/19/09
Oh wow, this is amazing. HOw did you think of this? Masterfully written.
Joshua Janoski04/21/09
I'm not sure if you have ever been to the Amazon, but you could have fooled me if you have not, because this story sounds 100% authentic. I felt like I was there, basking in the "noisy quiet."
Jenn Larsson02/03/11
Thank you very much for the kind comment you left me. :) I enjoyed this article, and fully understand how refreshing it can be to take a second look at the things that surround you every day.