Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gambier sounds.


Today has been a day of sounds. It still is; the air conditioner for the human resources building keeps up its dull exhalations all night long. It's also been a day of great restlessness; I have roved over Gambier in much the same way that the deer have been roving through my yard (three today, one covered in flies; one last night, lying down in my yard, flicking her huge ears back and forth and devouring my grass with great diligence).

All morning, the birds in the backyard worked on their nesting in that old birdhouse.

For a space of the afternoon, I sat on the benches that line Middle Path in town, and I read, and I listened. Lena Grove climbed through a window, got pregnant, climbed through the window again, and started her journey to find Lucas Burch in Jefferson. The bench told me, in faded letters, "Share." A sparrow riffled over, cocked its head, and with its left eye looked up at me between the slats in the bench. Hopping two-footed out from under the bench and around my feet, it looked up at me again and opened its beak in mute request, soundless demand. The sound of horses' hooves clacked and clattered off to my left; a horse-drawn buggy pulled into town, and its white-bearded Amish driver climbed out and went into the grocery, leaving his wife in the buggy. The horses stamped and performed several neck-defying head tosses. The driver returned and hurrahed the horses into motion almost before he was even seated. The buggy rolled away slowly; did you know that in Ohio, Amish buggies need not display slow-moving vehicle triangles? Such things you learn before you take the Ohio state drivers' test.

A car pulled to the curb behind me and, vacated by its driver but still running, leaked its radio noise into the air all around my bench. Another car squealed through town with Cake's "Short Skirt / Long Jacket" blaring.

Once I'd moved to my new bench, further north on the path and also in the shade, I could hear a different range: the layers of a college town's vacated summer silence, the cascading crunch path gravel makes when only one person is approaching, the hopeful ringing of the town gas station's bell.

After awhile, the soundscape started to flatten, and so I made my way home. But by 9:30, the rise of late-dusk sounds--the occasional sound of a night bird, the final pips and burbles of dozing day birds--and the lingering of the light led me back out into town, this time along Middle Path itself. Starting at the north end of the path, I walked the mile to the south end, a walk that taxed me in surprising ways. Halfway down, I plucked a daisy and stuck it behind my ear and kept on going. No one has arrived for summer camps yet; I may have passed three people along the two-mile round trip. All the while, the moon shone down through hazy clouds, and the last light (still the faintest reddish purple when I crossed over to south campus) slipped away.

My favorite part: when I reached the chapel, I was able to see just how far off the clock and the tower bells are, in the aftermath of yet another power outage (which took place while I was away). By the clock and the bells, it was 6 p.m. as I began that second quarter of my walk. Pacific Time, I thought to myself. On my stroll back north, the creak and strike of the first bell's clapper made me jump, despite myself. Further north, I plucked the petals from my daisy; I have always been a little superstitious, and my excellent poet friend has me thinking about luck and fortune today. The daisy did its bit to confirm that somewhere, somehow, sometime, some abstraction of a person is indeed in love with me. I left a trail of narrow white petals behind me like strange snow, weird breadcrumbs, a transient trail by which to find my way out, if I could only find it again. I laughed at myself as I tossed the bared stem away into the night.

Cutting back through the art building's lawn, heading for home, I realized that my toes were getting wet with new dew, and that my restlessness was still not slaked. Even now, hours later, what's finally stopping me in my tracks is sleep's swift onset. Apparently, today it's all or nothing. That air conditioner across the road keeps cycling air with its dull, flat sound. The birds rest up; the deer are couched in someone else's yard. But who knows what newness will make itself heard tomorrow?

2 Comments:

Anonymous bbq said...

flower freak si bo?

1:22 AM, June 07, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

I don't think I'd say I'm a freak -- perhaps just a looker-on.

8:09 AM, June 07, 2006  

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