Sounds of silence

Paul Simon crooned about the “sound of silence”—a concept I was pondering the other night as the frogs behind my house sent their glorious music in my open window.
I decided there really is no such thing as silence, or maybe it is silence that lets us listen or hear.
Even when the world is extremely quiet, we still can hear the blood in our ears, the beating of our heart.
The ceiling fan is spinning over my head at this moment, its gentle rhythm calming and cooling. The refrigerator is humming, the clock ticking.
All these sounds form the soundtrack of my existence—a unique collection of whines and ticks and tocks and whistles. The sounds of your soundtrack are yours alone.
The frogs sing and serenade, and I wonder if the frogs know each other’s voices. “There goes Emmett again,” one frog might say to another. “Same old tune.”
There is a power that comes with recognizing sound, as if each of us has our own data bank of images that are triggered by certain sounds. All mothers know the sound of their infants be they foals or penguins or babies; they are connected by their own special sound.
The sound of frogs is a direct link to my childhood, as is a bawling cow or calf or a horse’s whinny or the chiggity-chug of my dad’s John Deere 70 and the pop of the hand-clutch and the clang of the trip bucket.
They are the sounds that fill my repertoire of comfortable familiarity; the sound that makes me pause and exhale.
A slamming screen door takes me to Reef Point at my aunt’s cabin and I instantly listen for the pounding of bare feet down to the lake. Sheets snapping on the clothesline, straining almost to come free, conjure up my mother, her hair in a red bandana, singing as she anchors the sheets on the wind.
The sound of my dad’s foot on the wooden steps leading to the second floor of our farm house tell me his state of mind, the sound of weariness, of disappointment or joy.
It was all there in the sound that echoed from his shoes up the staircase to me.
On my recent visit home to Fort Frances, I heard floatplanes taking off from Rainy Lake. There is nothing like that sound to mark the beginning of fishing season.
There was a time when I knew the difference between the sound of the Beaver and the Twin-Beech and the Cessna 206, when I could hear the whine and wait for the plane to come into view—a personal bet with myself to see if my guess was right.
But no other floatplane had a more magnificent rumble than the mighty Norseman. She leaned back on her floats and growled deeply until she could level off on the water and lift off, suddenly weightless and graceful.
CF-BSB, with her white belly and black wings and red trim, had a particularly delicious growl and you could hear her voice echo across the bay right into downtown Fort Frances.
I loved that sound, and imagined the green-eyed pilot with the very white teeth at the controls, happy beyond happy to be flying her.
The clickety-clack of the freight train is a nuisance to some and a melody to others. My family did a train trip west when I was 10 and I remember the rhythmic jiggle in the sleeping berth with my sister as we made up songs using the train’s clickety-clack as our percussion.
The sound of horses’ hooves pounding on the packed mud made the earth seem hollow. The sound of my baby sucking on her thumb as she drifted off to sleep comforted me. The squeak of the rusty swing whining in rhythm to the tiny legs pumping higher and higher made me smile.
It is music, beautiful music, the sounds of my life. I wonder what the sounds of your life are when silence allows you to hear them.

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