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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: The sound of a place

© Another Day in the Country

One of the things I’ve always liked about living in the country is the quiet — well, it isn’t entirely, completely quiet, but it is so much quieter than city life.

What I always loved about Ramona, as a child, even, was the sound of screen doors. It wasn’t just the sound of the door at my grandma’s house, it was how you could tell what was going on way down the street by the sound of a screen door slapping, or the sheets on the line snapping, or some dog just yapping. These singular sounds told a story, and I loved to listen.

I’m still listening to the sounds of my town. Almost every morning I eat my breakfast on the front porch, during the seasons when it is warm enough to do so. There are predictable sounds around eight o’clock in the morning, mostly birds, once in awhile a car, often Zeb & Norma’s golf cart purrs down the street. They wave.

A different time of day, different sounds emerge. Lawn mowers start up on the weekends. Chain saws whine during late afternoon. Dogs bark. A woman’s voice careens across the airwaves yelling accusations, fury, desperation. A car door slams, an engine revs, tires squeal, gravel flies, and the sound disappears across town, thankfully.

This morning there was thunder rolling across the trees and down the streets of Ramona. I’m not sure that it will even rain, but I haven’t heard that much rumbling in awhile. Is that an airplane that I hear? We usually don’t hear aircraft over town — once in awhile maybe a helicopter.

I’ve always been very attached to listening. In California, I didn’t even play music in my home all that often because I liked, in fact, felt a need to hear the natural environment. When my kids were small that was essential, because I could tell where they were, what they were playing, when to check on them by the sounds they made (or the lack thereof). Listening to the sounds around me became a habit.

Even indoors, my environment is filled with familiar sounds. There’s the omnipresent hum of the air conditioner, the click of a fan out of kilter, the tick of a clock. The clatter of ice dropped down in the freezer — sometimes my home is so quiet it startles me. Wind around the eaves, the rooster crowing, the screen door banging as the cat tries to figure out how to open it and get outside. “Marshmallow did it. Why can’t I?” Skeeter whines. (She’s gotten the hang of pushing the door open, but she doesn’t have the nerve to walk through, yet.)

As the years progress, the acuteness of my hearing regresses. When I asked my grandson to repeat something several times (he has trouble pronouncing his r’s and sometimes I have trouble understanding his lingo) he looks at me and says, “Baba, is it time for a Miracle Ear?”

I know there are sounds I no longer hear. There are birds I can’t hear if they aren’t close up. Luckily, I can still hear the doves, the warblers, and the mockingbird on the high wire.

I have frogs in my pond, and they make noise when I startle them — somewhere between a squeak and a trill. At first, I didn’t believe my ears. Really? Is that the frogs? Sure enough, it was. My fish in the pond make this slurpy sound when I feed them, even if they miss the pellets. They sound like wet fishy vacuums, or like a table full of kids sucking in long strings of spaghetti.

I don’t have the television on during the day. Instead, I listen to the sounds around me for my entertainment. Thankfully, my end of town is normally pretty quiet. I get to hear the natural world — coyotes at night, locusts later afternoon. Occasionally, the natives get restless and rev their engines, ubiquitous four-wheelers fly by with their throttles wide open. A stereo is cranked up at broadcast level, and peacefulness is shattered. However, on most days, hearing is such a gift and listening a pleasure.

“What was that?” It’s the sound of a gun firing several times. I hold my breath, listening. And then I remember, it’s the first day of dove hunting season on another day in the country.

Last modified Sept. 4, 2014

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