Tag Archives: birds

Sounds I Miss

end of an ocean wave, lots of foamI took one of those online hearing tests last night, the kind that test the upper Hz frequencies that only the young people can hear. I dropped out after 12,000Hz and tried not to be depressed by my 44-year-old inner ears. Middle age is here in my life, even if it doesn’t come in the form of a Gregorian Chant. (Although maybe it should.) In all fairness, it’s not really much of a loss, that 12,005Hz and higher range. I don’t need to hear squeaky buzzing, right? (Maybe, if Emile and Lucas decide to use them as ring tones on their someday cell phones.)

But there are some sounds I haven’t heard in a while due to lack of proximity, circumstance, or attrition. Here are a few of them:

Ocean foam—I didn’t make it to either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean this summer, so I haven’t been listening to waves. But more than the sound of furious crashing surf, I love the sound at the very end of the wave, when the bubbles aerated into the ocean water explode and leave the liquid, making a quiet hiss before the tide is drawn back into the sea. It’s a sound that requires one be right on the shoreline, that one be quiet, too, because any sound smothers the foam hiss. I can hear a glimpse of it if I put my ear next to a stream of seltzer water running over ice; there’s that same bubbling up and collapse. It’s like a sigh from water, and when I can listen to it and see the horizon of the ocean in front of me, I feel at peace.

Quiet cat footfalls—I love hearing Emile trotting down the stairs or along the hallway on the main floor of our house. It’s often closely followed by a question, a calling of “Mommy” or “Daddy,” or a declaration like, “My belly is hungry.” These sounds are terrific and often amusing. But I also adore less assertive steps, like my sweet first cat Willie used to produce when I’d come home from school. It was a thump as he jumped off the couch in the family room and a dot-dot-dot-dot as he’d bounce over to me, and by the end of his jaunt he would have assumed an air of nonchalance, as if we both didn’t already know that he was totally excited to get a pet and a scratch behind the ears. Read More…

Everett Versus Bird

At first I wasn’t sure that what I was hearing existed in the outside world. It could have been an echo of a dream, or a misinterpretation of a real sound by a sleepy, 5AM brain.

And then it happened again. And again. I strained to figure out the identity of the sound. My mind compared it, I suppose, to every other sound that came in striking distance of this one. It was a rap. No. It was a wham. No. The sound, skipping like a record player but slower, was somehow tamped down. It had multiple parts that chimed at once–it was like a sharp thud. What the hell is a sharp thud? How could anything sound like that?

When deconstructing a sound, there is complexity. The start of the sound, the middle (this is optional) and the finish. Every sound pushes against air, creates something from nothing and then travels out in all available directions until a fraction of that creation reaches our ears, where it is funneled down to our eardrums. And then when our tiniest bones rattle our experienced brains quickly sort through our dendrite-supported memory and label those sound waves. A dog barking. Glass shattering. A soda can opening. There may be individual differences among those canines, windows, and pops, but they’re similar enough that it doesn’t take us very long to assess and categorize what we hear. All things being equal, of course.

But here I was, the clock relaying the early hour to me, and the sound. The sound. The sound.

It’s unusual for someone in their 40s to hear a completely brand new wave. (Ha. I wrote new wave.) And yet, I couldn’t place this on listening alone. So I got up–clad in boxers and a faded t-shirt. My hair was pillow-conformed. I forgot my eyeglasses on the bedside table, so I wasn’t great at seeing anything in front of me, either. (Rookie mistake.) I stood in the dining room, swaying a little, waiting for the next eruption. Read More…

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