What I Hear, by Karen Joy Fowler

Tue 1 Mar 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Author

What I Hear, by Karen Joy Fowler

I made a decision at the start of this blog to leave the iPod behind when I walked, but it doesn’t mean there’s no music. I spend most of my life with a song in my head. Not a song, really, so much as a bit of a song, a few lines that repeat. With great effort I can finish the song or substitute another in, but the original snatch returns as soon as the effort ceases. This is not usually unpleasant. It depends on the song. Sometimes I enjoy trying to track back how that particular song ended up in my head at that particular time. Sometimes I can’t. In any case, I’m used to it.

This morning’s was Acadian Driftwood.

Try’n’ to raise a family. End up the enemy
Over what went down on the Plains of Abraham

What did go down on the Plains of Abraham? You might be surprised to hear that Canadian history wasn’t covered much in school here.

Today I learned, from a birding group I passed, that the surf scoters, a sort of sea duck, are bottom feeders and don’t compete for food with the cormorants, who feed from the middle column. Scoters are very common in the winter here, floating in groups close to shore, and I’ve been admiring their absolute unconcern—how the waves can crash directly down onto their little heads and they show no sign of noticing.

Sea birds don’t sound anything like land birds and I noticed today that, even as I walk along the cliff tops, what I hear are the land birds. The gulls, pelicans, and cormorants are very quiet or at least they were this morning.

In the evening after a rain, frog (or toad)? voices fill the park.  Quite a hubbub, but the mysterious thing to me is the way it stops, instantly, as if the conductor laid down the wand. This sudden silence has nothing to do with me and MJ; it sometimes happens after we’ve left the park and are halfway down the street toward home.

Unless it’s stormy, I don’t hear the surf until I’m quite close. But the barking of the sea lions carries all the way up the blocks from the wharf. I hear it even inside the house. It’s a lovely sound to go to sleep to.

And then there are the repeated pleasures of eavesdropping on people as they walk past.

Sometimes I hear things that immediately engage my sympathy: “And there were no accolades for that?!!” (said in tones of incredulity.)

Sometimes I’m troubled: “Have you ever played with mice or birds? Little things die quickly.”

Sometimes I doubt that very much: “I’d make a spectacular homeless person.”

And some things remain mysterious and possibly misheard: “So she realized that if things went on that way, in three weeks she’d have no nose at all.”

Hang in there, Wisconsin. A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

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