The sounds of silence



By Regena Handy

Often I sit on the porch and drink my second cup of morning coffee. (One of the major perks of retirement.)  Even in winter I will occasionally bundle up and park myself there for a short time. Usually this is edging on towards mid-morning as I am not an early riser anymore. (Another glorious perk.)

The morning work traffic, going and coming, has already happened. The school bus has passed by now. It is too early for the mailman. Or the UPS and FedEx folks. Only the occasional vehicle drifts down the road, mostly retired people like us. Otherwise there is no noise.

“Listen,” I sometimes halt the wooden porch swing where I’m sitting and say to my husband when he joins me. He will answer that he doesn’t hear anything. And I will smile and say “exactly”.

But if you listen closely, you will hear it—the sounds of nature, unsullied by any man-made racket. And you imagine this is how it was here in the mountains little more than a century ago.

First you notice the wind, for there is always a breeze on our little hill, stirring the nearby trees even on a calm day, rustling the dry leaves left by winter. On the quietest of days, especially after a heavy rain, we can even hear the creek waters, winding and curving their way through the woods and around the fields.

Now that it’s officially spring, the birds are everywhere, pecking at the ground, flitting from tree to tree, twittering, chattering back and forth. Sometimes one will perch in the nearby willow tree and fuss at our close proximity to his roost.

From far distances we occasionally hear the lowing of the neighbor’s cattle. A few days ago came the faint sound of a donkey braying, no doubt raising an alarm over something entering his domain.

Now and then neighborhood dogs will bark for any number of reasons. Recently I heard the first bees of the season, the hum of their rebirth. Around dusk last week a wild turkey gobbled on the far side of the hill. An owl hooted and he gobbled again, as if in response.

In what is still winter’s tangled mess, the flower garden is beginning to come to life. Centered by a tiny, ornamental pool, it was originally intended for goldfish but quickly became what we jokingly call the frog pond. After the frogs, which simply appeared one day by their own initiative, come out of hibernation, we sometimes hear them during the quietness of the day, a deep bellow that entices our curious cats.

The best time for silent porch sitting is during a soft spring rain. The quietness will quickly lull one into oblivion, the gentle patter against the metal roof of the house serving as the finest kind of sleeping pill.

My apologies to renowned artists, Simon and Garfunkel, for  pilfering the title of their song. However, I’ve got to say, I prefer the sounds of silence in my part of the world to the one in their lyrics.