Friday, August 14, 2009

What We Hear

Unplug your Ipod for a minute.

I have been waiting on this topic, waiting so I could be thorough.  There are so many sounds: some musical and some grating.

The wind chime in the kitchen, unpredictable and echoing with the very low ceiling there. 

The thud of Haley's feet on the stairs, though truth told there is no quiet way to go up or down as somewhere in the middle there is one stair that groans.

The whir of the gear that drives the light, lurching when it first comes on, surprising even when you are expecting it.

The siren of the Harbormaster, usually chasing a boat wide open and thumping against the waves a little bit past the no wake sign.

The thrum of the lobster boats and the trawlers early in the morning, unique pings in each engine that I might get to know after a while.

The screechs on the beach on a good day; I never know if they are signs of trouble or of fun. Though they are mostly caused by splashing, I wince anyway.

Booming laughter from a young guy at three in the morning as he and his girl dodge the streetlights with a walk on the jetty and the beach. He has no idea I can hear him.  It makes for a laugh that lacks any self conscientousness.

The rap of the line that takes the flag up to the Tower on a windy day, persistent as a metronome; so regular that you would half expect to see a mark on the side of the Tower at the end of the day.

Foreign languages on the beach or in the parking lot; travelers planning the rest of their day in a blur of consonants and vowels for which I never had a gift.  It can be guttural; it can be lyrical. The neat thing is that they have come here from so far away.

Seagulls caw. It is a morning noise. By 2:00 they are gone who knows where.

The crunch of footsteps on the rocks that line the walkway to the Light.  There was a sunrise Mass last weekend with a liturgy that many could recite word for word.  Missing was the music you might get in a church.  Present at the end was the crunch of all those feet on all those small stones.  It was the sound you would get if you filled up the aisle of a church with Rice Krispies treats just as the service was ending.

There is a whistle like a tea kettle when a window is not dogged tightly. You find this out when the wind comes out of the the northeast and the flag stand out like cartoon canine pointers. It was a while before we figured out the windows drop down from the top and that was where the howl started.

The collective awe of a massive crowd on the night of the annual Luminaria event that kicks off Heritage Days.  Between 8:00 and 10:30 that night I would guess that nearly 2000 people came to or through the Point.  The lights set up all along the coast were inspiring enough but when the moon began to rise out of the ocean and it rose like the ripest of apples on an invisible string, the gathered crowd gasped as one voice.

The slap against the leg of a fisherman's cooler, coming and going.  Quieter coming back as the coolers are a bit lighter after a stretch out on the jetty if you catch my drift.

Another song.

Men and women seemingly talking to themselves as they check out the message board or head by the fence.  It is only after they turn that you see the cell phone or the bluetooth.

A gaggle of women catching up on the gossip just outside the living room window.  They don't know we can hear them and how we laugh when we hear them say goodbye to each other and move on only to come back together with one last thing three times.

The cannon from the yacht club marking sun down; getting earlier quickly it seems.

Cursing at all hours from every walk of life; we can hear you, we know all the words, we wish you would find another way to say it and if you can't, we wish you would go away.

The breathless conversations of the bicyclers; the ones I hate are the ones who can chat without breathing hard.

The click, click, click of my push lawn mower. It is a conversation starter every time I take it out and it always takes me back to the spring of 1970 when I would push one back and forth on Myrtle Street for Grampa Delaney.  I got paid in silver dollars and used them to buy Tom Jones and Bill Cosby records.

The voice of a pre school teacher with a pile of little ones gathered around her in our living room. Their picnic had been rained on and they came inside to have a story read to them.  The tale of Rebecca and Abigail never sounded so good.

The timer in the utility room that governs the Light and the light on the flagpole.  On the night of the Luminaria when the crowd outside got to a size that was intimidating if you were in the house, I went out in the yard to get a feel for what was happening just in time to hear a complaint that the flag should not be up without a light on it.  I took three steps back toward the utility wing and had my hand on the door when a loud snap signalled the light.  We got that stuff covered here thanks to Mr. Houghton.

The soft lap of the waves on a warm wind day and the pound of the rocks falling into the road when the tide has pushed them over on a not so warm wind day. The back door will bounce too until you lock it down when that bad weather knocks.

The Pavlovian jingle of the ice cream truck mid afternoon and the subsequent hustle of the beach goers and of Haley.  There is one disturbing tune that plays sometimes; it was used in the film Schindler's List. I can't hear without losing my appetite altogether. It will be great theatre the day the van's arrival coincides with a wedding ceremony.

The pulse of the pipes when you try to run the sink, shower, and washer at the same time.  It can happen when a neighbor grabs a hose to help out with the flowers at the islands too. It is the noise you hear on the first day after a seventeen year old installs a bass speaker in his car.

The cacophony created when the Disney Channel mixes with the Red Sox game and a crime show all at the same time.

And finally (for now) a dead quiet just before the sun rise, the proverbial hush, a lack of sound that is like a pat on the back when you most need one; it is humbling, calming, neccessary and one of the great gifts we have found living here to date.

6 comments:

  1. Don't you ever feel like the seagulls are in a chorus and if you listen very closely they are saying "you're buggin' me"?

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  2. Bob
    It is so nice that you keep including the Delaney family in your writing.

    One of your favorite cousins

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  3. It is not hard to do - I remember the details of living there vividly. Cutting around those sorry fallen apples in the backyard. My other grandmother's house on the other side of the chain link fence. Using mushrooms on a rotted tree as steps to get over. The potting shed on the back of the garage had a smell to it like pipe tobacco before you light it. And it all comes back with that clickety click of the old mower.

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  4. There are so many beautiful sounds that we take for granted. It's only when we go away that we realize those sounds defined our home. Thanks for sharing this; I've always wondered what it would be like to live in a lighthouse.

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  5. Glad to bring a slice of home to the page for you.

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  6. bob, that was beautiful. thanks, christine

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