We’ve moved into town from a rural area, and I’m still getting used to the town sounds–quite different from those of the country. As a writer who relishes description, color, place, and all the senses, I try to be particularly alert to what I see and hear. We have sidewalks now with people walking by. Sometimes they talk to each other, but sometimes they are alone and speaking with an invisible someone. The first several I saw I was certain were schizophrenic–talking to themselves while wandering around the neighborhood. Nope. Carrying on conversations with someone at the other end of the Bluetooth line. We have skateboarders and in-line skaters, though the latter are fairly quiet. But I can definitely hear the scratchy hum of the skateboard wheels on the concrete or the rhythmic hiccup of the skateboard going over every seam in the sidewalk. The bikes are quiet, but the trash collector is not. There’s the humongous truck that stuffs trash, yard waste, and recyclables into its respective maws on top. Clatter, tinkle, smash, crush. I can hear the hydraulic sucking swoosh of its giant claws. Occasionally, I’ll hear the mewling or yowling of a cat or two. In pain or in love? Hard to tell. We rarely heard cats in the country, but we did hear the coyotes howling. I think they howled and yipped when they’d caught a cat for dinner. Our yard in the country was a virtual aviary with the sounds of hundreds of different birds. I miss that; they’re not here in town. Maybe a crow or two, the occasional towhee or jay, but that’s all. I’d like to change that by planting trees, shrubs and flowers bearing seeds and berries. I’ve hung bird feeders and strategically placed two birdbaths in the yard but have seen no birds splashing or drinking. What fun it was to watch the bluebirds or finches bathing. I miss that, too. But we do have crickets, noisy nighttime paramours fiddling away to their unceasing rhythms. And we have sirens–we rarely ever heard a siren in the country. Ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks. Thank heavens our dog has never been a howler or he’d be doing a lot of it. It’s just what goes on in town. And oh yes, helicopters flying overhead with emergency victims to the nearby hospital. We have plenty of car sounds but few motorcycle revvings or their lasting echoes around the curves of the rural roads and hills.
But we do hear the heavy swishing of the street cleaning machine as it drives past on predawn Thursdays. I’ve heard the squealing tires of a quick getaway or the screeching tires of brakes being applied. Car doors being slammed. No honking horns. The occasional car alarm. Oh yes, lawn mowers and blowers! When I hear the laughter and squeals of the neighborhood kids walking back and forth to school with their parents, it takes me back to my own school days–meeting up with friends at an appointed time, skipping or galloping when late, yelling to the kids across the street, running a stick along a picket fence, bouncing a ball so many times in each sidewalk square, carefully avoiding the sidewalk seams. We walked ourselves to school then. What I’ve concluded is that the country sounds I miss (including sheep and chickens) have been replaced by the town sounds I’m growing to love. I have stored the country sounds in my memory banks, and now I’m slowly filling up my town sounds repository. For a writer, one can never have too many sights and sounds to draw upon to make the next story more authentic.