This is my post for the Writing Adventure Group. The topic is: “WAG #4: Do You Hear What I Hear?” Detailed instructions for this assignment are here.
Early Friday morning. Strolling up the steps to my front door. It’s 6:15, I’m back from my walk and have about 30 minutes to spare before I need to jump in the shower and dress for work.
Thinking about the weekend ahead I realize I might not have another chance to do my WAG #4 exercise, so I plop down on my front stoop, take off my ear buds and turn off my ipod, silencing Ben Folds. I am ready to listen.
Home is in an older neighborhood in my city. Good sized houses on very small lots, so close together that what happens in your neighbor’s home or yard is heard in yours. My block is a mix of elderly women and their yappy little dogs, young families and their colicky little babies and every kind of family and accompanying noise in between. I love it.
Day and night, we are surrounded by sound. Neighbors, kids, animals, security alarms, repairmen, delivery trucks, trash trucks, lawn mowers, you name it, there is never a time when my block is devoid of someone or something making noise. And if the melody isn’t enough, we are short blocks from a major thoroughfare, and not too far beyond that, railroad tracks, allowing the intermittent sounds of police sirens, motorcycles and trains to provide the underlying harmony.
So I sit, prepared to be assailed by noise. Prepared to sort it all out, and focus.
And … nothing. Not a sound. No birds singing, no dishes clattering through the open kitchen window of the house next door, no dogs barking, no garage doors opening expressing their lurching, creaking complaints, no carpool drivers honking in the neighbor’s driveway, no nothing. As my mind clears I realize I can hear the low but persistent buzz of the mercury vapor street lights. But even the buzz is subdued, barely registering in my brain.
I sit for five minutes in almost total silence. Listening intently to the sound of nothing.
Then it begins. I hear my husband, with his early morning heavy-footed, half asleep zombie walk, stomp into our bathroom directly over my stoop. Next door, the Boston terrier and two golden labs shoot into their backyard yip-yipping and barking to let everyone know they are on duty for the day. A neighbor’s cat saunters up to her front stoop, exhausted from her long night of patrolling her turf and howling impatiently to be let in. The newspaper truck with its questionable muffler turns onto my street and my ears are filled with the steady thwack as the paper hits each driveway and the deep belch of the truck backfiring every 50 feet.
At that moment the huge SUV across the street comes growling and rumbling to ignition. SUVs always sound terribly disappointed at their lot in life. In that growl I hear the grumbling complaint that they were meant for bigger, more important journeys. Instead, they groused, they are wasted on trivialities like going to the grocery store and dropping the kids off at school.
I get up and head inside. I have heard what I needed to hear. The silence.
As I started this assignment, it propelled me towards finalizing another piece I have been meaning to post. It is here (the previous post) and my assignment might make more sense if the other post is read as well.