Listen Up!

Sounds can tell us what is going on around us. We can close our eyes and sounds help us know where we are and what is happening . “The Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson is a powerful title because it is very difficult to imagine spring without the sound of birds singing. Right now it is early morning and I get to hear the bird symphony. This is one of the sounds that tells me I have another day to create joy, or waste with worry. Listen up!

I grew up on a farm in Iowa, and I loved the sounds that surrounded me. Lying in my bed in the early morning, I heard birds sing, roosters crow, and the muted sound of my parents conversation in the kitchen. The roosters crowing was impolite. My sleep was interrupted without apology, but I still appreciated the unrestrained and majestic quality of the roosters’ song. My twelve brothers and sisters and I agree on just one thing, and this is like herding deaf cats. The sound from our childhood we all remember and loved, was the sound of the train whistles as trains passed in the night. The train tracks were a couple of miles away, but the sound of the train whistle carried far in the quiet nights of rural Iowa. The train whistle was a lonely sound but strangely it was also a comforting sound like a lullaby. If we awoke during the night and heard the train whistle it was easy to fall back to sleep. It meant all was well….

I read the animal sound books to my son, but I told him the real animal sounds were different. When we visited the farm he got to hear all the animals making their real sounds. Ducks don’t
“Quack, Quack”, cows don’t “Moo”, pigs don’t “Oink, Oink” and of course roosters don’t say”Cock-a-doodle-do”. The real deal is not on the page: cows are in the pasture, pigs in the mud-wallow, and ducks are swimming in dirty pond water. The “meany”rooster we named Virgil crowed like other roosters, but he also attacked my baby brother with intent to do serious
harm. True story.

The sweetest sounds are the voices of people I love. Just a “hello” and I know who they are. Mom’s hello is tentative, almost afraid. She does not trust that the phone usually brings good news; trauma was a staple of her childhood. “Watch me Mommy.”is often heard while kids play on the playground. They don’t worry if they are worthy, or good enough for Moms’ attention. I can hear my son’s voice calling me to watch him, and I still do today. I try to remember Roger’s voice before he got sick and how he called me “Dinker”. He was a great storyteller and I would be so honored to hear his stories one more time. His voice got very weak as his dementia progressed, and I would have to be close to hear him. Our goodbye at the end of our visits was always the same–Danita: Who loves you? Roger: You do. Danita: Who loves me? Roger: I do. Danita: Who loves each other? Roger and Danita: We do! Roger will always be like the whistle of the train passing in the night, my lonely lullaby.

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