Sounds

I associate the sound of Morning Doves with my grandmother’s house in Minnesota.  As a small child, probably 6 years old, I remember hearing them in her yard and asking someone (who did I ask?): What is that sound?  I have heard Morning Doves in other places, but they remain vividly tied to a particular place and the visual image of my grandmother’s yard with its evergreens.  When I hear Morning Doves, I can’t help but go back to that place.

I’ve been trying to think of other sounds that have strong associations similar to this seemingly passing experience of an adult giving a quick explanation to a 6 year old.  The sound of a very hot, humid night where the insects sound as thick as the air?  I can imagine playing “kick the can” as the darkness falls and the noise of the night creatures increase, ending with the voice of a parent calling the first child home in the neighborhood.

Most of these sounds, that elicit such memories, seem to be from childhood, like the sound of the International Harvester morning factory whistle, that marked the change in shifts, but also the start of my day.  I can see myself laying in my bed as a child, listening for the whistle.  Sounds unconsciously shape who you become.

I can always tell if it has snowed overnight.  As I lay in bed, I sense the quiet of the world around me–a world blanketed in snow.  I find myself, in that world between sleep and waking, listening for the rumble of the snow plow to confirm what the rest of me already seems to know.  And recall the joy of going into my girls’ rooms when they were school-aged and whispering in their ear–snow day!

 

Midwestern Values

As I sat enjoying my hot soup in my warm house, I thought about the fact that most tall tales are based in fact…

After the snow storm hit, my assistant, Cathy could not even fling herself out her sliding door like she had in the past. The windows were plastered with snow.

Meanwhile in Grand Rapids my family and I had a Christmas dinner with ham.  My mother suggested that I take the ham bone home to New England since my mother was leaving for the warm southwest in early January. The ham bone was put in the freezer to await its flight.

Back in Rockport, Cathy did not want to abandon her mother when she went exploring outside.  She strapped her mother to her back, both having had relevant experience in the Andes Mountains.

Meanwhile back in Grand Rapids, I packed the ham bone in my bags, preparing for my trip home.

Back in Rockport, Cathy and her mother went through a window in order to get to the roof and get the lay of the land and see the results of the storm.

Meanwhile, in Grand Rapids, I put the ham bone back into the freezer when my flight was cancelled.

Back in Rockport, Cathy and her mother could not identify the landscape nor identify which lump of snow hid their car.

Meanwhile in Grand Rapids, I packed the ham bone in my bags for my rescheduled flight back to Boston.

 Back in Rockport, Cathy and her mother could not identify the landscape nor identify which lump of snow hid their neighbors.

 Meanwhile, in Grand Rapids, I put the ham bone back into the freezer when my flight was cancelled.

 Back in Rockport, Cathy and her mother sat and viewed the beauty of the snow from their rooftop framed by the ocean and the winter sky.

 Meanwhile in Grand Rapids, I packed the ham bone in my bags for my rescheduled, rescheduled flight back to Boston.

 Back in Rockport, Cathy and her mother continued to enjoy the view from their roof.

 Meanwhile in Grand Rapids, I packed the ham bone and unpacked it when my I got the cancellation notice for my rescheduled, rescheduled, rescheduled flight back to Boston.

 Back in Rockport, Cathy called me from her rooftop, claiming that the weather had warmed and that I was obviously telling a tall tale and trying to keep the ham bone from arriving in Boston.

 Meanwhile in Grand Rapids, I packed the ham bone and went to the airport to take my rescheduled, rescheduled, rescheduled, reschedule flight to Boston.  It was cancelled.  At 4:30 a.m. the next morning I drove the ham bone through the Arctic vortex to Detroit to catch a direct flight to Boston.

 Back in Rockport, Cathy’s mother, finally tired of being on the roof, commanded her to fly off that roof.  The neighbors ran to their windows to see a flame of red hair streak through the sky…

 And then, finally, after an ice storm, a 2-foot snow fall, an arctic vortex, 4 cancelled flights, a Michigan Christmas ham bone that came to Massachusetts, a Cathy that was came back to ground, and one mother warmly established back in her home and another off to Phoenix, the holiday season came to an end.

 And I enjoyed my spit pea and ham soup, thinking how proud my Midwestern grandmother would be of my persistence in not making a ham bone go to waste.

Landscapes of Fear

Several weeks ago I sat getting my hair cut and overheard a conversation between several New England locals.  News reports and photos of the devastation of a tornado that had gone through Washington, Illinois, near my hometown, had been prominent the previous few days.  The conversations went something like this:

“Wasn’t that terrible?”

“Yes!  I was in the Midwest once and it was scary.  I could never live there!

What?  Scary?  Everyone knows how to deal with tornadoes—Listen for the sirens and the weather reports, go into the basement, or if no basement, go into a bathroom with only inside walls.  Wait for the “all clear”—usually 30 minutes at most.  The path is quite narrow.

Everyone has their landscapes of fear.  I had a Hong Kong friend tell me about the frightening experience of driving on an open road in New Mexico at night.  I was feeling the calm of the image as she described it…to me there was nothing better than an open road all to yourself. 

 Right now there are bitterly cold temperatures in Michigan where I am visiting.  I had a conversation with a friend’s who was home from college.  He was heading off to drive to see a friend who lived 40 minutes away.  I asked—do you have a coffee can and candle?  Do you have a sleeping bag in the car?  Anyone who has lived in Minnesota knows that these are essential items in case your car breaks down or you end up in the ditch in the winter.  They keep you warm while you wait for help.  In fact, when I lived in Minnesota, I was amazed at how everyone took going into the ditch so lightly!  Cold temperatures were taken seriously but everyone knew what to do and the cold temperatures came with bright, clear days of beautiful snow-sculpted landscapes that sparkled.

Probably most Midwesterners would identify a city with masses of people as their landscape of fear, but in middle school I discovered my greatest landscape of fear—a coastal area prone to tidal waves— in other words, the deep ocean.   In 8th grade science class I wrote a paper on tidal waves and ever since that time the thought of a wall of water, or even being on the surface of the ocean with a mile of water underneath me, makes me shiver.   I have no desire to sail across the ocean.  I have no desire to swim off-shore.  Horror shows that both mesmerize me at the same time they fill me with fear are the Nova science shows on the Asian Tsunami or the Japanese Tsunami.  I once interviewed for a job in California and asked about fault lines and tsunami warnings.  I was assured that off-shore islands blocked the waves.