I went hiking by myself yesterday. After nearly two weeks of hibernating over the break, I felt the strong need to get out in the nature and get my blood flowing. Greenbelt was a great choice; despite being by the freeway, it was forested enough that my lungs felt alive with the damp and cool air as I trekked further on a trail. I inhaled deeply and resolved to do this more often in 2015.
I don’t go hiking as much as I’d like to. Of those times I did go hiking, not many were in solitude. And possibly, I had never gone hiking while wearing my hearing aid.
There are two main reasons I wear my hearing aid: to watch movies and to listen to music. I see little point in wearing it otherwise and absolutely dislike having it in when I know I’m going to get sweaty. But yesterday, I left my hearing aid in as I turned off the stereo in my car and started my hike.
It was an interesting experience, to hear while hiking. Stepping on rocks versus tree branches made a completely different sound that aligned with the sensation of my foot hitting a hard, smooth surface versus breakable sticks on the dirt. It sounded like the way it felt.
Even more interesting than that was when I heard the voices of other hikers. Smiling and waving at hiking passersby was not unusual for me, but it gave me a slight startle when, on a couple occasions, I heard their voices trailing after me as I passed them. I kept walking, not in the mood to turn around and gesture my deafness to them, and wondered if they thought I was friendly-faced but strangely quiet or if they found me rude.
As I walked past a small group of hikers who stopped to take a breather, I heard their loud chatter, but none of their words touched me. I slowly realized that I was perhaps the only person at the park who was truly in solitude. While my feet carried me further into a trail, my thought train was humming along, uninfluenced by the topic of the group’s conversation. Or the tone of the strangers who spoke their greeting after me. Or their accents, even.
Knowing myself, it would be easy for me to go into a whole another tangent of thought if I were to overhear an outside conversation. But I don’t. I can’t. My hearing aid introduces surrounding sounds to me, but it doesn’t magically make me understand spoken language.
On Greenbelt’s 7-mile hiking trail, there were plenty other solo hikers that same day I was there. But none were in solitude the same way I was.
Is that a blessing or a curse? You tell me.