Wendi Stewart

Wendi Stewart
May 08, 2023 · 5 min read

Gratitude - Sound

I am grateful for sound.

I was lying in my hammock under the hemlocks and pines in my yard, trying to stretch the time between eruptions of coughing that disturbs my peace, the residue of Covid. I don’t often lie in my hammock despite it being a pleasant pass-time. I struggle with stillness, though I am getting better at it. I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds overhead – the squirrel who seemed annoyed that I was taking up space beneath his trees, as if my presence violated his rights, doing his impression of a jackhammer, chattering noisily in complaint; the sound of a chainsaw slicing through a tree, a sound that makes me wince, another tree downed because of inconvenience, not for use; a couple of birds of unknown name having an animated discussion about what they are going to have for lunch. I heard a child’s laugh from somewhere, bouncing off the rocks and trees to find me. Sounds make up a large part of our memory or at least that is true for me. My mother’s sister was deaf, born without an auditory nerve. My aunt was an extraordinary person, and her vision was beyond sharp, making up for a loss of one of her senses. She never knew sound and I had a hard time imagining that when I was a child and … it got me thinking.

            I have an inventory of sounds in my memory that I can call on at any moment, can close my eyes and relive the scene, transported back in time. A newborn calf with her muffled sounds of struggle, her mouth full of fluid, the remnants of the amniotic sac clinging to her face, followed by her loud voice when she clears her throat, an announcement – I am born. The baler pulling the dried hay from the ground, the hydraulic arm providing the percussion, a timed beat, the plunger hammering the hay into the bale chamber, a steady rhythm that had my head nodding in time, the day’s heat making me sleepy. The sound of spring run-off, the rushing water tripping over itself in a hurry to get where it was going, accompanied by the squish-squish-squash from my boots, the water having breached my boots’ limit, filling them with icy water, my toes wiggling to keep warm so as not to interrupt my play. The swish of my ski pants on the tin roof of the barn, sliding down toward that moment of suspension in air, when for but a brief fraction of a second time pauses, the exhilaration of the weightless moment before the soft thud into the snow. The screen door of the Reef Point cabin bouncing back into place with a thud, the wood damp, softening the sound, followed by the patter of childhood feet thudding against the packed mud, running for the water, to see who would win. The wind wiggling the poplar leaves, creating an applause for my imagined game of being Ivanhoe or Robin Hood as I sneak through the forest, a weapon of a lilac branch firmly in my grip, the freedom of summer feeding my fantasy. The fishing line cast out, zinging its freedom from the reel, a fresh chance to catch the big one, announced by the plunk of the lure into the dark mysterious water of Rainy Lake, the possibilities limitless. My father absent-mindedly stirring his morning coffee, his spoon creating its own melody as it strikes the insides of the white mug, while he was lost in his thoughts and I watched him, wondering when he would come back to me. The giggles of little girls, playing below my hall window where I sit with knees pulled up, my head against the wall, eyes closed, listening to the sound of innocent joy, of life in its moment of perfection, the sound assuring me everything is as it should be, lacking nothing. The beat of hooves against the ancient pasture ground, galloping aboard my precious Nassau, my best friend for twenty-five years, his long mane licking my face, his ears moving back and forth waiting for my whispered urging, my bare legs pressing into his sides, the heat from his back soothing me, his gait steady but powerful, as if he might raise his feet and gallop to the clouds, taking me with him, away from everything and anything that hurt. Sound is the healer of wounds, gathering us up in memory and giving us rest.

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