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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: The imprint of a soundscape

© Another Day in the Country

It’s early morning and I’m still in bed. The sun has barely appeared over the horizon, trying to nudge me awake, but my mind is busy navigating a dreamscape where I am supposed to be giving a workshop and I can’t find the right room for the presentation.

Loud, raucous, rooster crowing stops me in my tracks. I’m wide awake now!

The neighbor’s roosters are in my yard harassing my sweet docile flock inside the chicken pen. This is no dream but an unwelcome reality.

The neighbor’s chickens consist of three or four roosters and, I believe, one poor hen. They know no boundaries, strutting sometimes in the road, crowing; they resemble a gang of Italian ruffians from Jersey.

This morning, they are flying at the chicken fence attempting to start a ruckus with my rooster, the Baron of Barred Rockville. Pajama-clad, I run barefoot, out into the yard, hollering “Get out of here,” and “Go home!” assuming they understand English, and clap my hands as loud as I can. I’m relieved they are listening, as they half-run/half-fly across the field that separates our houses. Peace descends once again.

Now I’m up, and since it’s such nice weather, I take breakfast out to the front porch.

I have a new swing on the porch. It is satin smooth and sturdy. One of the chains that holds it to the ceiling came “too long” and now it clanks as I swing. If I sit just on one edge of the swing instead of in the middle, the bolts and links over my head make a repetitious protest of metal against metal.

Doves are calling from electric wires strung across the street, and robins are having a mating squabble in the yard.

At Christmas, my sister gave me a wind chime, a sturdy thing that I finally hung on the front porch, attempting to get it out of the strongest wind patterns.

I hesitated to hang it outside because I was afraid that it would be blown to pieces by the Kansas wind, but it has survived quite nicely and now it tinkles gently in the breeze…only two notes, the breeze is so slight.

This is what rural living is at its best: Peacefulness.

This is what our small towns can give us — quiet. I muse to myself that I must remember this lovely silence that occurs when the children are safely in school and those few adults with regular jobs have gone off to work. The rest of us are left in this early morning stillness.

The wind picks up and the chime by the front door adds several new notes, making the tones into a melody.

I was reading an interview of Bernie Krause, who has made it his lifework to record what he calls “soundscapes” all over the world.

“There are still indigenous groups living closely connected to the natural world who can walk through their rain-forest habitats without a flashlight and know exactly where they are because of what they’re hearing. It is that precise for them,” he says.

He also says that a photograph of a favorite place will not give you anything close to the “memento one soundscape can provide.”

I wonder, “If I closed my eyes and listened would I recognize the sound of Ramona? Would I know what street I’m on by sound alone or what country road I’m driving down?”

Almost every morning, I hear a diesel truck coming down the street past my house. I know the owner and that he’s going over to check on his livestock. Dogs bark and I recognize some of them and know where they live. I hear the sound of my sister’s old Mercury driving past on her way to work. There’s a low rumble on the railroad tracks and I can tell that the train that’s been waiting for at least an hour is finally moving out.

When I turn off US-77 onto 360th Rd., the rolling hills are beautiful, cows standing belly high in grass at times; but it’s the sound of the meadowlarks calling that makes me smile.

“You’re home again,” the sound says. “You’re back in Kansas.”

I must take a deep breath and remember the sounds in the country that I love, especially on a warm Sunday afternoon when I want nothing more than to lay down in my hammock and snooze away the time or read a good book in peace.

Instead the kids in town are out with their noisy motorbikes, taking advantage of the once quiet streets to rev their motors, going around and around the block, endlessly it seems, not stopping until they run out of gas or a neighbor runs out of patience. All these make up the soundscape of another day in the country.

Last modified March 30, 2017

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