The Sound of Almost Silence

The Air Quality regulations at Redquarters require that certain activities involving solvents, epoxies, lacquers, and model-aircraft glue must be done out of doors, or in the garage with the doors open. Since the afternoon was windless (!) for the first time in . . . a while, with temperatures between “tolerable” and “quite pleasant in the sun,” I did my chore on the back porch.

High clouds softened the late afternoon sun, still well south of west. The little bit of moving air had gone still. No dead leaves moved, no breeze stirred. The absence of wind sounds caught my ear. Without wind, traffic noises do not carry as far during the day, so silence reigned. The constant hum vanished. The last time I heard such quiet was at night after a snow storm had passed. To hear it by daylight . . .

A female cardinal chastised me from the branches of the neighbor’s overgrown holly, then lapsed into quiet, duty done. A different bird with an unfamiliar call responded across the alley. It had a harsh almost-trill, and I didn’t stop work to turn and identify it. Otherwise no birds moved, none called, and silence filled the air. Perhaps a hawk lingered in the area. Perhaps the doves and robins had selected a different neighborhood to plunder of worms and nut-meats and birdseed.

Just before five, as I packed up my tools, conjunto music erupted from a block or so away. Someone had finished work for the day, probably the plumbers or other trades working on a remodel. I’ve walked past the house several times on my evening strolls. Apparently the 70+ year old house needed a lot of work, or the new owners decided to do everything that they wanted all at once and get it over with. The crews tend to stop work around five, and that day was no exception, based on the direction of the music. I heard a few verses, the song changed, then car doors slammed and quiet returned.

You get so used to the background noises of traffic, dog barks, bird chirps and screams, and wind that it’s easy to forget the area can be quiet.


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