This morning in bed, the train whistle a mile away escalated, and then faded, along with rhythms that only wheels on tracks can produce. Morning birds began their melodies, as if next to me. I had forgotten that this was the first spring night with an open window. Lying in bed offers a large portal for sensitivity to sounds, when other senses aren’t awake yet or are winding down.
Fast forward to 2:00 PM in the office after several hours of concentration on the computer screen, grading essays, talking shop in the office, and helping a student. Fatigue calls for a pause. Often I turn my chair, scoot a foot, and lean my head back against the wall. The brain stops its overt cognitive efforts, and more effortless forms of thinking take over.
Karen has gone to teach her afternoon anatomy and physiology class. Anne was at her desk around the corner and behind a partition. The hum and pulse of the ventilation system soothed me. Then I heard sounds of sorting papers, followed by stapling. The click of the stapler punctuated successive movements like a minor percussion instrument in an orchestrated sequence. Next, to the ears, came the sound of papers hitting the desktop when being dropped from a loose grip in order to straighten the side hitting the desk. Two or three times dropping the stack usually evens the edge. This gets repeated with each side as needed.
Finally, the sound of objects hitting metal signaled the disposal stage, reminding me of how big and sturdy the trash cans are. I asked Anne, “Have you been sorting, stacking, and stapling?” to which she replied, “Yes.” She added, “My desk had gotten in such a mess. It looks much better, and I feel much better.” Ahhh, we all know the feeling—some more often than others, depending on tolerance for desktop chaos.
I quizzed Anne further on her heightened mellow state. She added, “I can see my desk. It was almost irreparable.”
Later, I heard the sound of the Keurig. The acoustics of hot water forced at high pressure through a K-cup pack are exquisite. It touches off every coffee memory of a lifetime. The sound eases off, and though the Keurig is around the corner, I know Anne is ready to reach for a steaming cup of brew.
Anne walks out the door. The ventilation system is still rocking gently with its imitation of waves hitting the beach and then retreating. Now, voices down the hall float in—those distant conversations, not discernible except for their pleasant sense of rising and falling in different pitches and intonations.
Shoes then clack on the marble, hallway floor. This is moderate clacking. I’m reminded of walking down the hall last week alongside April, whose large, solid heels made each step sound like two quick steps. I commented to Karen, “April walks with four feet.”
It has been a festival of sounds, many unnoticed most times but which become a respite and creative pause when the mind needs audio enrichment apart from cerebral focus on the printed page or symbol-laden computer screen.
Refreshing has done its work. I can look at essays again.