The Best of Andy Rooney

(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published Jan. 21, 2006.)

There's no telling what wakes you on those nights you can't sleep. Last night, I awoke at 2:20. It was the sound of falling snow that did it. I knew it was snow because there was not a single, solitary sound. The silence of falling snow is deafening.

I lay there for several minutes, trying to breathe quietly so as not to obliterate the soundlessness. Finally, I couldn't handle my doubt any longer. I got up (I'm fighting off "arose"), pulled back the curtain and looked out on the backyard. Sure enough, there it was -- gently falling snow hitting the ground silently, covering the little slate walk and clinging, half an inch thick, to tiny branches which are themselves no more than half an inch thick. It perched on top of the points of the picket fence in a beautifully symmetrical peak that no human hand could fashion. They say no two snowflakes have ever been the same, but we don't know, do we? I saw two that looked very much alike.

There are all kinds of sounds in nature that are better than noise. Some sounds are good or bad depending on where you are and what you're doing when you hear them. Nothing is worse than a downpour of rain when you're caught out in it without a coat or umbrella. But inside, the sound of the same downpour is a pleasure that makes you appreciate your shelter.

Of all the sounds combining weather with nature, none is so persistently loud and impossible to turn off as the roar of the sea rolling up onto a broad, sandy beach. I envy people who live on expensive property near the ocean. There's the roar as thousands of tons of water advance on a broad front along the width of the beach, or the crash when the waves hit the immovable rocks that cup the shoreline at either end of a sandy crescent. There's the soft, seething sound as the water recedes. It pauses briefly out at sea, gathering strength for its next attack. A beach confounds angry waters by accepting them and defeating their destructive intentions, waiting patiently for the waves to go back where they came from, out to sea.

The heat of summer is as silent as snow, but it's an oppressive silence. There's no pleasurable relief from heat comparable to the great feeling of pulling up the extra blanket on a cold night. Air conditioning is a modern marvel, but it is loud, heartless and mechanical, with no charm. I don't like it, but I don't know how we ever lived without it.

Wind is nature's most unpredictable sound. You never know for sure what it's doing, where it's coming from, or where it's going when it leaves. It's going somewhere, but while it blows, it seems to stand still. The trees in front of my house are miraculously strong standing up to the wrath of a gale. The trunks creak, the branches crack, but the big maple has stood through hundreds of storms since it was a slip of a tree whipping in the wind 50 years ago. The tree will, in all probability, survive many more years.

My perfect day would be to awaken to a cool and sunny day with a sun that shone in the kitchen window while I ate breakfast. I'd take my own shower under circumstances that improve on nature's showers by allowing me to control the force and temperature of the spray with the twist of a dial.

By the time I sat down at my typewriter, which is not a typewriter at all any longer, my ideal day would be cloudy with a threat of rain that discouraged my considering even grocery store travel and encouraged this kind of overwriting.

The Best of Andy Rooney - Humor & Satire Classics

Humor & Funny Stories - Silence is a Wonderful Sound | Andy Rooney

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