Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The sounds of no silence

A heron lands in the stillness of an early camp morning
What a difference a day makes.
The one I’m talking about started out with a worker at Red Lake Marine, the place where we tie up our boat, taking out his boom box and playing tunes while he worked on some new docks. I happened to be there waiting for a truck to deliver our new beds. I knew the beds were on the truck; I just didn’t know when they would be delivered and so ended up waiting the entire day.
“You da man! (boom di boom, boom, boom)
“You my main man! (BOOM)
“Been scratchin’ for a livin’, don’t wanna see my baby pout
“When the sun’s getting high, you know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout
“Got an itch in my stomach and I just got to get it out
“So I head out for a sub and soon you all hear me shout
“You da man!’ (boom di boom, boom, boom)
“You my main man! (BOOM)

“Give me mine on flatbread, give me olives, give me cheese
“Give me lots of cold cuts, could I have some peppers please?
“Then stick it in the oven, wrap it up at your ease
“You da Earl of Sandwich, I praise you on my knees
“You da man! (boom di boom, boom, boom)
“You my main man! (BOOM)

Now I’ve got to apologize right here to this worker for not doing a better job at describing the strength of the bass on his boom box. I mean: (boom di boom, boom, boom) is really pathetic. It doesn’t illustrate how your cheeks pulsed inwards and your eyeballs were driven back into their sockets. And (BOOM) doesn’t show how the air was knocked from your gut like a sucker punch to the solar plexus. This was a truly impressive, industrial-strength, boom box.
I also might have gotten the lyrics wrong but no matter, you can ask anybody in Red Lake. I mean anybody. And don’t just restrict yourself to the living. The ones in the cemetery on the far side of town heard it too.
And it wasn’t all rap stuff. There were also country songs.
“When you’re with me, I fly like an eagle
“But when you’re away, I bawl like a beagle.”
 Just a day earlier I had also been in town but it was like a different universe. Red Lake can be noisy with floatplanes taking off from Howey Bay, but not this day. The dock worker wasn’t there either. As I was loading the boat with supplies I heard a low bugle sound and looked up to see seven swans flying overhead.  They are only the second group I’ve seen in Northwestern Ontario.
You frequently can hear loons call too. There is at least one nesting pair in the bay. They usually hang out in front of Red Lake Marine and Chimo Airways. There are ducks and gulls, mink and beavers, eagles and herons, right in front of the town’s main drag. Pretty cool in my book.
And I don’t mean to single out this worker. He’s not a bad guy; just a member of a generation who seem to think there are no other sounds in the world worth listening to except for those stored on their digital devices. And that is a pity.
“You da man!”
We had a very windy day here at camp yesterday and I was thinking how marvelous it is to hear the wind in the tree leaves. Quaking aspen leaves almost tinkle as they shimmer while birch and balsam poplars have more of a bass quality to their rustling. Although pine trees can whisper in low wind, yesterday they were howling.
The waves made a chaotic smashing sound on the rocks but on other days they sing a lullaby, something not lost on the producers of the Solitudes meditative sounds series.  There is also rhythm to the falling rain. These are soul-soothing tunes, ones that let your mind heal and wander.
(Boom, di boom, boom, boom)
In calmer times such as in the evening, you can hear an entire symphony of natural music makers. Hermit thrushes play their eerie buzzy flutes from the deep recesses of the forest, grey tree frogs sing short refrains that are incredibly loud. Toads trill on hot nights. Grasshoppers crackle like firecrackers when they take flight in the day.
But these interesting and intriguing natural sounds are lost on today’s ear-bud-wearing generation who seem never to go a minute without their “tunes.” And on those rare occasions when the ‘buds are not in their ear canals, they hum, to cover the sound of silence.
“Like a bee, ewee, eweegle”
It can make for some frustrating conversations.
Here’s an example with a girl who worked here years ago.
I signal to Megan that I want to talk to her so that she will remove her ear phones. She takes them out but then immediately hums.
Me: “Megan, did you make the beds in Cabin 8?”
Megan: simultaneously, “Ummm, ummmm, ummmm. What?”
Me: “Megan, did you hear what I said?”
Megan: “Ummm, ummmm, ummmm. What? Something about beds?”
Me: “Did you make the beds?”
Megan: “Ummm, ummmm, ummmm. What beds?”
“You my main man!”


Anonymous said...

While I completely understand your view on this matter I completely disagree with how you chose to handle the matter. You come acrossed as an old crusty irritable individual who's time is short on this earth. It's ways about the choices that you make

Anonymous said...

I can relate to your frustrations. There's nothing like the sound from a vehicle a quarter mile away that rattles the windows in your home. I often wondered if it would drive the moles out of my yard but to no avail. so much for that persons hearing as well. Or should I say what hearing.
How I ache for the solitude of Bow Narrows Camp.
Indiana Dave

Tony Bornhorst said...

Thanks for a great week at bow narrows Dan. I choose to read your blog, because I find it interesting and sometimes very educational. Nature certainly can create it's own music. I heard a few "booms" this past week when lighting struck close by followed by the roaring thunder!! IMO you are far from a crusty irritable individual…just wanted you to know that I am on your side. Keep up the writing and never let a letter signed "anonymous" bother you.

Tony Bornhorst

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an entertaining post. You're quite correct, many people today are so.wired in that they miss then beauty and peace of the natural world around them. More and more, though, I've observed that people of all ages just can't disconnect from technology. It's a big reason why I can't wait to get back to Bow Narrows each year. No internet, no cell service, no room I my bags for a big boom box, and surrounded by nature. Only ten months til we retirn. Not that we're counting or anything.