Gordon Hempton: A Self Portrait
Gordon Hempton Revealed
About Gordon Hempton
What is your birthdate?:4/25
Previous occupations:Botanist, whole foods grocery manager, seaman, bike messenger
Favorite job:Acoustic ecologist
High school and/or college:Winston Churchill High School (Potomac, MD) and University of Wisconsin (Green Bay and Madison)
Name of your favorite composer or music artist?:Hank Williams, Sr.
Favorite movie:Dumb and Dumber
Favorite television show:I don't get TV in my rural area but when I did watch, it was Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and then The Oprah Winfrey Show.
- Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
- A. I sleep with an open window and gratitude.
- Q. What is your motto or maxim?
- A. The universe is only half made.—John Muir
- Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
- A. I can’t help but think that this question also implies that happiness is more important than anything else, if for no other reason that it is the first question listed in this section. I once read graffiti scratched on a telephone booth that said, “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” That always struck me. It is a choice to be happy, not as a condition of other things, but as a condition of gratitude for life. But I also believe that happiness is over rated and the search for it, rather than the way of it, consumes too much time and energy. I’d much rather do something meaningful rather than simply be happy, but in the end, I guess it often does wind up being the same. How would I describe perfect meaning?—There is a God.
- Q. What’s your greatest fear?
- A. Having to answer questions like this.
- Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
- A. Home for Christmas. I'm here! Where's Oogie and Abby (my kids)? Hope they make it before the snow piles up any deeper.
- Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
- A. John Muir
- Q. Which living person do you most admire?
- A. My father.
- Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
- A. I
- Q. What do you regret most?
- A. Forgetting where my eyeglasses are...
- Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
- A. Not saying, "Ahh, what the heck, why not?" so often.
- Q. What is your greatest achievement?
- A. Becoming a father
- Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
- A. Limited ability to understand the real question
- Q. What’s your best quality?
- A. Endurance.
- Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
- A. Dolphin in tropical waters (with other dolphins, of course).
- Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
- A. You'll have to ask my friends, but last week, someone said that my laugh was unique. I think they meant wild and unrestrained, which is true.
- Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
- A. Probably Superman because he didn't carry a gun and never made a lot of noise while flying.
- Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
- A. I didn't know I could like bad guys. Anyone with too much slime.
- Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
- A. That would definitely be John Muir, "Want to go for a long walk?" Hopefully we'd be magically transported to a place in time that was unfamiliar to both of us.
- Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
- A. chatter boxes
- Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
- A. nature sound portraiture
- Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
- A. Do you mean a job that I could never have? Dangerous waste of time but let me give it a try: recycling airplanes and ATV's into hearing protection
- Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
- A. Kindness towards others, lightheartedness towards self, and humility.
- Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
- A. My barbecue t-bone, rare over Alder wood with rosemary smoke dosed with plenty of beer and fine conversation.
- Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
- A. Imagine by John Lennon, Crazy by Willie Nelson, Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix, Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do) by Hank Williams, Please Forgive Me by David Gray
On Books and Writing
- Q. Who are your favorite authors?
- A. John Muir, Mark Twain, Edward Abbey, John O'Donohue and Ezra Bayda come quickly to mind but the list goes on. It is hard to pick favorites.
- Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
- A. Again, it is hard to pick favorites but if you are looking for a sequence of books to read next, I will suggest Being Zen by Ezra Bayda, followed by Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, then bring the whole thing home with a quiet walk through the living library of the Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic Park, and just be.
- Q. Is there a book you love to reread?
- A. Donald Kroodsma's The Singing Life of Birds
- Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
- A. Don't write until you can improve on a blank page. (Use paper and pen for the important stuff, believe it or not.)
- Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
- A. "How do you even think of this stuff?" And my answer is, "I don't." When I listen my mind is blank, absorbing it all. Then later I write it down.
- Q. How did you come to write One Square Inch of Silence?
- A. One Square Inch (the book) began when a New York literary agent read an article about my work at One Square Inch (the place) by John Grossmann that appeared in Delta Airlines in-flight magazine, Sky. She recognized that the loss of quiet from our lives was more than an article—it was a far reaching subject that literally touched everyone’s life but few knew it. Frankly, John and I balked at her invitation because we knew the subject well enough that to cover it well would require at least two years of diligent work with uncertain rewards, a fact that no doubt accounted for the absence of other books on the subject. However, doing something that could make a real difference weighed in heavily. “What better opportunity would exist to save silence? If not now, when?” were two nagging questions every time I hiked up the Hoh to One Square Inch (the place). I knew John was patient listener and had the tenacity of bulldog for accuracy. But did I trust John enough to reveal my most inward thoughts (and doubts) that I had reserved only for private moments alone in aural solitude? There could be no holding back to do this right. We slowly inched forward. First with the book proposal, this proved our suspicions immediately true. Twice as much work as we had calculated. But the story was uncommon, and we knew it. It would take place across America, we could be the ears for the reader to hear the land rise in its own defense against noise. And what about the logistical nightmare of scheduling places, people and events? Why worry about what will happen next—as with all true adventures, something always happens next . Our journey began just before April Fool’s Day, 2007, ready to fire-up my rickety old VW bus, “Here we go!” we said over the phone. And go we did.