Whoa. My life has gotten a little loud! That means I find myself distracted by voices in the lobby, by my own thoughts and by every freakin’ song on the radio. I tried a little exercise to calm myself down. I thought of all the sounds I have really liked in my life, that mean something to me.
1. Train horns, bells from crossing gates, track noises. I can’t help it, even at night I love the sound of a train going by. The sound of a plane is cool but the sound of a train reminds me of trips to Boston, the conductor with his hole punch marking my destination and fare, then of course calling out the stops – Beverly Farms, Montseratt, Beverly, Salem, Marblehead, Lynn, Swampscott, GE/Waterworks and finally North Station. If I can hear it, I can smell it. The cars are musty. There were those crazy cone shaped cups for water. Later in life I would spend 6 summers working as a railway tour guide in Alaska. You get to know the sound of the airbrakes. Whoa be to the person who tries to disembark before the airbrakes are set!!
2. Thunder, wind, waves, rain. I know silence is good but there’s nothing better than hearing wind in the trees is there? The more wind the better for me. Thunder is also thrilling. It creeps up on you. I never can stop myself from counting to see how far away the lightening is, as if that’s going to do me any good. (I’m the one who used to take my sneakers to bed so I wouldn’t get electrocuted.) Even though I grew up near the ocean I only remember hearing the waves while I was sleeping a few times, maybe once or twice at my brother’s house when the wind was blowing right, maybe camping by a lake here in Alaska and at my mother’s cousin Rita’s house which was right on Manomet beach, (on the opposite end from the nuclear power plant!) Of course, sunning on the beach is so much better than pool side because of the wave and other beach sounds like people screaming and laughing who are afraid of the waves. Rain is great at night. I feel grateful I have a roof for it to bounce off.
3. Bird sounds. I really like seagulls. I know they aren’t technically called that, but they remind me of late afternoons at the beach when the shadows are long and the birds graze freely picking over the trash. My brother’s house is the best place in the world to hear bird sounds. Really. A previous owner planted special bird trees. Any morning in the spring or summer you awake to a cacophony of calls. It lasts about an hour then quiets. Once again it reminds me of childhood, how sweet the day begins when you hear natural music instead of an alarm clock calling to set your schedule.
4. Snowplows. Snow generally quiets the world but the sound of a big plow with chains barreling down the street is thrilling. We used to have one particularly large plow that my sisters and I called “The Monster Plow.” We would hide ourselves under the covers when it came by. If we heard it roaring down Lincoln Street and we were outside we would race to the porch or some point where we wouldn’t be hit by the wall of snow it threw towards us. It’s the only heavy machinery I love, ( along with Mike Mulligan’s steamshovel.)
5. Familiar cars parking. Ahh, I remember the sound of a particular boyfriend’s car coming down the street and parking. I would run down the stairs, in youthful leaps. Then there was my mother’s car which usually had to park in the driveway using reverse. Hers would also be the only car that would temporarily pull up to the side of the street where there was no parking, then honk the horn so we would take in the groceries.
6. The fire horn. It blew twice at noon each day for a test then there were codes for the volunteers to follow to certain neighborhoods listed in the back of the town telephone book. Our code was 26. That sure got our attention when you heard your own code being called. People would sprint to their cars either to respond or see if their house or neighbors were in danger. It would also blow if there was no school so you could bet we looked forward to that. It was a call to a common cause.
7. The sound of a football game. I grew up so close to the high school that I could leave for school at 7:58. On Saturdays, we didn’t have enough money to go to the first half of the game, (not that I wanted to spend my babysitting or housecleaning money on this when I could get in free after half time.) I would listen through the screened windows to The National Anthem, garbled announcements of the plays, cheers,( Be AGGRESSIVE! B-E, A-G-G…) the band. I don’t like football but I liked watching boys a lot.
8. Fireworks and carnival sounds. Most people know I’m in love with the 4th of July. I don’t care if it’s drizzling or foggy. I just want to hear the fireworks, the 1812 Overture and the calliope music. It’s all a bit steampunk but also an old fashioned celebration of life. Fireworks aren’t cool anymore because special effects in the movies are so awesome. I still like hearing them even though I don’t stay up until midnight. I imagine the “oohs” and “ahs” then listen for the sound of applause/car horns after the grand finale. It’s a universal form of theatre.
9. The sound of the pressure cooker. This is so 1970’s. I would get off the 6 pm train coming from my job in Boston,(which I was so inept at). I would hear the pressure cooker jiggling through every screen door I passed, sometimes there would be two rhythms dueling from houses opposite each other. My mother would have one going too, with beef, potatoes and carrots which smelled so good, like food smells when other people cook it for you.
10. Wind in the rigging of boats. They’re the wind chimes of Manchester by the sea. I wonder if people getting off the train to go to the beach stop to listen to it or the little lapping sounds the water makes on the hulls? I don’t sail but I did paddleboard in Manchester harbor last summer and it sounded the same, even when I fell in.
Those are some sounds which calm me down. They make me listen to what matters to me not just to what gets my gall or gets stuck in my head. I hope you hear some beautiful sounds today. I know some people like silence but there is always something out there. Just keep listening.