May 21, 2009

The sounds of life…

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Spirituality at 6:21 am by dinaheng

I live on the second floor of a three-story condominium. The windows of my guest room look out onto a courtyard, and are shaded by metal awnings.


Each spring for the last couple of years, robins have built a nest underneath one of the awnings. My neighbor Zohreh and I would know whenever a new family had arrived by the sound of reverberating robin song in the courtyard.


This year, the bird song is louder than in previous years. When I looked out one guest room window, I discovered that not only had the robins returned to their usual awning, friends had built nests in the one adjacent, as well as in my upstairs neighbor’s awnings above.


Every morning, bright and early, the wake up calls echo through the courtyard. For the most part, I love having the birds around. Just knowing that new life is incubating nearby is a joyous reminder of God’s love. At the same time, a house guest recently complained that she couldn’t sleep because of the constant chirping. Since she was only here a short time, she put up with it.


You get used to all kinds of sounds wherever you live. When my upstairs neighbor ripped up her carpeting and put wood flooring down, it took months before I got used to the sound of footsteps overhead. I would wake up at night when she or her boyfriend got out of bed because the sound reverberated through the ceiling.


There’s not much you can do about noise in a building when everyone’s stacked on top of and next door to each other in common housing. Except save for the day when you can move into a single family home, and pray that you don’t have noisy neighbors.


It’s funny how the sounds in our environment affect us. I live in a very quiet suburban neighborhood, yet the addition of a fire station a few blocks away now means that the sound of sirens has become a part of our community. When I first noticed it, it reminded me of living in Manhattan, an island where the sound of traffic  and car horns is ever present.


We make so much noise in our daily lives, it’s a wonder that we hear anything of significance. We make small talk to fill gaps in conversations. We say things to indicate to  others that we’re listening, even when we’re not.


We get used to the sound of arguments, tuning out emotions that make us uncomfortable. We talk on cell phones constantly. Why? Surely it’s not just because we have rollover minutes.


It’s a shame that people don’t actively listen as much as they talk. We hear so much more that way. Today, I listened to a friend complain about his job, and heard his fear about not being enough. I listened to the sound of my neighbor’s son playing the piano, and smiled at the musical joy he was expressing.


I love the sounds of nature — hearing the wind blow through the trees, the steady rush of water in a creek, the near silence of a dark night in the mountains. Yet I would never live in the wilderness because I’d miss the sounds of people.


In a month or so, the baby robins outside my windows will fly away. I’ll miss their cheerful  songs, but am sure they’ll come back. I like to think they’d miss the sound of their human neighbors.


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