Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hawks Cry

Brakes are squealing outside the garage window; the guys are here to pick up the recycling bin. Yes, I'm obnoxious, I recycle. There's a huff -- the sound of air releasing -- that follows the high-pitched metallic screeching from the truck because it has air brakes, I think. Not sure. Must look that up.

We have two clocks in the garage, and both tick. They're on either side of me so it should be like stereo ticking, only they're half a second out of sync. I can tell you which clock is which from the type of tick: the tap of the one I bought at the dollar store, and the click of the one the kids gave their Dad for Christmas, which is all silver so their old parents can't see the hands very well (which is why there are two clocks in the garage.) I want to pull the batteries on both and restart them so that they're both in sync. Sometimes I want to throw out all the clocks in the house. I never do either.

My daughter is composing music using a free trial download of Finale Songwriter software on her computer; she has been in semi-secret for some time now. She was finally happy enough with one piece to allow me to hear it yesterday. She didn't like it (of course) but it was just like her -- gentle, whimsical, and haunting. I loved it. It's now stuck in my head and plays on an endless loop. Because it's her music I don't mind, although sometimes what she does with her music scares me a little. I love music but I'm tone-deaf and I can't even read it; I can't help her with this. I'm still buying her the software, of course.

I have chronic bronchitis which gets worse during the first month of summer when it rains almost every day. I'm now just getting over a moderately bothersome flare-up, so when I exhale the remaining constriction tags any deep breath with a little whistle at the end. It's annoying, I feel a bit like a tea kettle that can't decide if it wants to boil.

The wrens are in the yard, and so are the cardinals; I've been here long enough to separate their songs now. We haven't had too many blue jays this spring, so I rarely hear their unpleasant noises. The various hawks that usually hang around our pines at the back of the property are also off somewhere else. Wrens cheep, cardinals beep, blue jays fuss, but hawks really do scream, in a piercing, single-note fashion. I still think of screams as extended sounds, however, so I revise that in my head to a cry. Hawks cry. The two sandhill cranes I discovered in the yard the other day are bitching at each other somewhere in the neighborhood; I can hear the very loud clatter of their bills echoing outside. The little white herons picking bugs out of my neighbor's grass make no sound at all. I was never much of a bird person before we came here; now I'm mildly obsessed with identifying and learning about them.

Someone's lawn man has gone to work a few streets over, but if I listen hard I can hear beyond that. I can hear another neighbor's tractor as he mows his pasture, the faint sounds of rumbling and rushing of traffic from the state road, and the occasional booming and hammering from the construction site a mile away. Then a twin-engine plane hums overhead, the pitch rising and falling as it approaches and departs. It's a week day, a busy day. The world rolls on.

When we first moved here I thought it was too quiet. I grew up three blocks from a private airport and I've always lived in the suburbs or the city; I'm used to a lot of noise. Sometimes the silence seemed so profound I felt as if I were in a vacuum, but now my ears are clearer, sharper. There seems to be a lot more I can hear, so much more when I was living in busier, crowded places. I'm paying more attention, I'm hearing the world differently. How many things did I miss when I wasn't listening?

All right, your turn. What do you hear right now?


  1. Something from the Discovery channel, I think.

    This one is about engines, which means I tune it.

    Engines confound, confuse or bore me. The tuning it out is out of self preservation....

  2. At least two different species of frogs -- probably bull frogs and tree frogs -- croaking from the pond and wetland outside our front windows. The birds are asleep right now, but they sing nonstop from dawn until dusk.

    My cat Billy, meowing because I promised to play with him and haven't yet, and my other cat Whitey complaining that no one wants to be downstairs with him.

    Occasional soft traffic murmurs. The windows on that side are closed and there aren't many cars this time of night. (10:30 PDT)

    The white noise of my computer's fan, punctuated by a little popcorn-like sound from the hard drive when it autosaves this note. The flat tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, with a little rattle when I hit the spacebar.

    And... nothing. Last time I was in a city I wondered how I ever stood the noise. I love the energy of cities, but I love listening to frogs at night even more.

  3. Meleeta6:47 AM

    Bird song, no one else is up yet so it is quiet. Occasionally I can hear logging trucks on the highway as they come down the hill. Oh a Harley just went through town on the main throughway.

  4. I live deep in the woods. At 6 in the morning, the only thing I hear is the hum of my computer and one lone bird who is indeed the early riser, no doubt looking for his worm.

  5. I'm right there with you on the whistling tea kettle chest. It's very annoying. Nature is loud; the birds alone make an amazing racket. The deer blunder through the yard and somebody's dog likes to pant at me through the screened window early in the morning.

  6. Anonymous8:13 AM

    I am in a hotel room that used to be a mill, a factory. The walls are concrete, the doors are steel, there is fabric over the walls to muffle the ugly and the sounds. It's quiet.

    There is the slight hum of a fan, located between the window and the headboard. There are the sounds from the TV, either SportsCenter or one of the many Michael Jackson tributes.

    And the click-clack of the keys on my laptop.

    I may take a walk to find some nature sounds. Or I may not.

  7. The Mamma Mia soundtrack. This reminded me about an exercise that we were taught last year :)

  8. This was beautifully poetic, Lynn. It reminded me of a poetry exercise I did with a class of 5th graders once--I had them pick an intimate object and asked them to write a poem from it's point of view, eg, "What the Car in the Driveway Hears".

    It's a great exercise in paying attention.

  9. I hear the wind rustling through the trees/bushes in the backyard, the low murmur of the tv, the pocket trills of a robin interspersed with the whistle of a cardinal, and a few other birdcalls I haven't identified. There's a distant rubmle of some machinery down the street (a neighbour is doing some landscaping), and even further away, the on the main throughway, I hear the low the rise and fall of traffic going by.

    Like you I came from a really noise place. Before we moved here, we lived in an apartment--2 storey walk-up above a restaurant/bar--on a main street (near the intersection of another main street). We had streetcars, buses, trucks, motorcycles and cars going by day and night. Plus traffic using the back laneway to make deliveries to all the shops. Plus the noise from the bar downstairs (karoke every Thursday night!) lol.

    Then we moved here to the suburbs. Our little pocket neighbour is surrounded by ravines on two sides and a cemetary on the other. The quiet took some getting used to. Now I realize it's not so quiet afterall between the birds and the lawnmowers (which will start up soon).

  10. The husband's still asleep, so the house seems quiet.

    But it's not, when I pay attention. My desktop machine is pretty quiet, but the old laptop next to it is humming, and so is my husband's computer behind me.

    The filter on the fish tank in the next room is making a faint buzzing sound and an occasional small splash. When I listen really hard, I realize there's a steady trickling sound, but that doesn't register unless I really try to hear.

    Interesting. I will try this more often. Thanks!

  11. I hear the soft turning of pages as my husband works at the table behind me. Every once in a while he sips his coffee. Behind everything is the hum of the refrigerator, the whirr of my husband's laptop, and the gentle buzz of my harddrive fan.

    After last night's storm, the outside world is quiet. Even the robins seem to have taken the morning off.

  12. I want to go live in B.E. Sanderson's house. It sounds so productive and quiet.

    I am hearing my kids describe--in excruciating detail--everything they did on their half hour allotted video game time. It seems to take more than half an hour to describe. I am hearing, but I confess, not listening. I wait for them to pause and then make the proper murmur of approval or say, "Really?" or "Wow." And that gets them going for several more minutes of detail.

  13. wouldn't you know that as soon as I clicked on the "post a comment" link, everything got quiet?

    Crows cawing outside, and a couple sparrows battling at the birdfeeder. The squeak of an old office chair I had banished to the basement and as been brought up to my LIVING Room -- GRR -- as my husband fiddles with his newest "old" fixer-upper computer. He's moving it because when he plugged it in yesterday in our tiny room we've designated as an office, it sounded like a 747 taking off so I banned it from the office.

    Yup, it's on another floor and I can hear it from here. A very definite (and annoying) thrum.

  14. Right now, I'm listening to the cacophony of a dozen generators up and down our road because we've been without power for three days now and Detroit Edison can't figure out why.

    If I wasn't listening to that, I'd be hearing the different birds in my backyard which extends into a nature preserve.

    I might hear the coyotes if they're close enough to the house and the deer would have been through already picking at the corn I put out.

    Around 5 this morning, the hooty owl would have awakened me. He and his honey go back and forth for at least an hour.

    I'd hear the 5:40am train that's more than two miles from me on it's daily course.

    I live a mile from a big mall with several high end stores. It's always busy. But because of the nature preserve, I hear very little if any traffic noise. An occasional siren maybe, but it's a haunting sound here.

    I grew up here. In a 12' X 12' house (it was seriously small) and knew that someday, I wanted to come home. We lived in the 'suburbs' where everyone is ten feet from each other and you can hear the person in the next house breathing.

    When my dad passed, we tore down and built new on this 2 acre piece of heaven. I'll never live in the suburbs again. I prefer the fox and occasional dog barking back and forth than listening to my neighbors latest argument.

    Beautiful post, Lynn. Thank you.


  15. Keita Haruka10:56 AM

    Most imediate is the sound of the TV. There's a rugby game on between the South African national team and the English. There's the soft "snap" of a deck of cards being shuffled as some of my cousins prepare to play. The click of the mouse as mom plays spider solitaire on the computer. Soon, she will switch to tumblebugs and then she'll mutter under her breath as she concentrates. Dad is ignoring all of it as he focusses on the rugby. My uncle and aunt is whispering to each other. Uncle wants to watch the rugby but aunt wants to talk. I'm typing, likewise oblivious to all around me. I put on my headphones to lock out the rest of my family. Vaya Con Dios sings "Still a man" in my ears in stereo...but it's not enough to lock out the sounds of the rugby. Kick-off, and my dad and uncle cheers as the national team gets hold of the ball. I smile and roll my eyes as I increase the volume on the earphones until the sound of the rugly is just barely audible. I can still hear myself type as Nightwish starts to sing "Escapist". Mmmm...symphonic metal...the sound of a full symphony orthestra playing a haunting into before the distorted guitars make their shattering intro and the drums beat. Magnificent! Outside, I hear the neighbours' kids riding on their quad bikes. Dad's groan says it all. "Oh gods...WHY now when the rugby is on?" I smile. Just a normal saturday afternoon with the normal saturday sounds. Comforting.

  16. It is mid afternoon on a Saturday. Our house butts up to Lake Ontario, so all I hear now is the slight whirring of the fan in the living room and some jet skiers on the lake. The docks are close by, so the summer people load up there - the rest of the year its so quiet we hear the snow fall.

    Hope you're feeling better soon.

  17. Kristen S.1:38 PM

    The chug of a washer doing a load, the tv speaking but what I do not know. The flap of ears as a cat shakes it's head. The tap of a small dog on the wood floor looking for forbidden kibble. The heavy walk of my youngest as she goes to pester her dad. A car on the road sounding so quiet with all the weeds/trees in bloom. The air is empty of birdsong or chicken talk. The beep beep of my husband's game telling me he's died once again.
    It's a quiet morning thankfully.

  18. Dropping in from B.J.'s. Great post. I do this occasionally sitting outside on patio, listening to the world around me. Since I'm inside at the moment - The hum of the refrigerator, the bag of chips rustling as my son gets something to eat. Crunching from one of the cats eating.

    I can hear the next door neighbors dogs howling in reaction to some high pitched noise I can't hear. Hum of the desktop computer. Clicking of the keyboard of course as I type. Ticking of the wall clock. A high pitch ringing noise coming from something electronic - haven't identified where it's coming from yet.

    Otherwise the house is quiet with Hubby at work and just my son and I home.

    Enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you.

  19. I can hear the clock ticking on the wall behind me. I can hear the fan on my computer. I can hear my own stomach making some very funky rumbles. I can hear someone outside laughing which means the ladies are on my neighbor's deck having tea and if I hustle I can probably get a blueberry muffin.

  20. Laptop-whir, fan-hum.

    My sleeping husband's breathing. The distant click and clack of a child building something in the playroom, the occasional thud of footsteps. Some people are talking outside, their voices waft through the open window, mere background.

    It's a nice quiet afternoon. :)

  21. Anonymous11:42 PM

    Right now survivorman is on the hotel television. I hear him digging through the snow and scraping across ice. It reminds me of Alaska. I loved it there in the winter. So quiet. Calm. Peaceful.

    The air conditioning is on. It's 10:40pm and the oppressive heat is still beating against us. The wall unit is whining just enough to make me worried. I'll probably call maintenance if it gets too much worse.

    On my husband's laptop he has tweetdeck on so everytime he gets an update it makes a high pitch tone that only I can seem to hear.

    My son, like most toddlers, is fighting sleep by tossing and turning. My husband is moving around the room getting ready for bed.

    And then there's me and the typing.


  22. Rainbow Lorikeets bickering, a light rain and the Aussie Rules on the Teev. Beyond that, I hear the surf on the shore and the hush of tyres on the road.

  23. I can hear my laptop humming and clicking, and my pale cat grooming herself on the pillow next to it. The other cat is in the living room somewhere, chirruping. I also discovered today that she will howl, conversationally, from time to time.

    I can hear the footsteps of the people upstairs, and their slammed doors. Outside, my neighbors, Sigma Epsilon, are having a surprisingly demure birthday party.

    People are coming in going in cars. It's a residential street, so no one is just passing through.

    I can hear the wind in the pines that I love my landlord for planting; and further up I hear planes go by. Some kind of bird is whistling.

    I can hear myself, cursing as I remember I need to get to the library before it closes!


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