My regular blog readers have seen me post a number of short stories written for creative writing groups or as part of the Idaho Commission on the Arts “IdaPost” pen pal program, which I have participated in since its inception three years ago. For the latter, the staff at the Arts Commission randomly matches writing participants up as pen pals for the duration of the annual program, and the current Idaho Writer in Residence sends participants a prompt every few weeks. The pen pals swap their stories or poems resulting from the prompt and at the end of the program participants can submit their favorite pieces for publication in the IdaPost Zine. The second writing prompt asked us to describe our neighborhood or home by sound (for the first prompt, see the post labeled “Gazing In.”)
© 2023 Carolyn Fenzl
Proprioception. It’s the awareness of the position and movement of your body and it’s a skill vital for navigating while blind. I learned the concept of proprioception while training to work with my guide dog, using senses other than sight to move through the world. Keoki will help me avoid harm and obstacles, but he’s a dog, not a GPS that knows my final destination. So, observing sounds is particularly important for knowing where I am in the world, in my neighborhood, and in my yard.
Overhead, I can hear the large drone that my back neighbor uses to spy on the neighborhood. The first time I heard it, I was relaxing in my backyard and became fearful that a swarm of bees was nearby. I consulted my husband who noticed the drone, so I memorized the sound. I hear it often on warm days, and sometimes the sound is so close overhead it distracts my dog from his own hunt for delicious scents to pee over in the yard.
Several houses down lives a man we’ve never met but we have affectionately nicknamed “Weed Whacker Guy.” During the warm months he is out in his yard every single day running a noisy gas powered weed whacker. It will whirr on for hours without interruption. Our minds have gone wild with explanations of why he would need to weed whack for hours every single day. Is he avoiding his wife? Does he have a compulsion? Does he just not get the job done because he is using the weed whacker wrong?
I can also keep track of the comings and goings of another neighbor because the brakes on their car have a distinct squeak that troubles the air as they pull in and out of their driveway. Next door, I know when a new Air BNBer is renting out the property from the rotating barks of different dogs in the yard. I smile at the gleeful jingle of Keoki’s collar as he runs along the fence, making new friends every few days. Atop the fence, squirrels chatter at my dog while birds chirp at those squirrels to warn them away from the nests in the nearby tree. And every half hour or so, the roar of an airplane taking off from the nearby airport drowns out all these sounds for a moment as it flies overhead.
When I take Keoki out for his last walk of the night, I often hear gunshots or fireworks or the distant electromagnetic boom of wheels against thick metal tracks as a train passes through town.
But at dawn, when I wake and step out onto my back patio, I am struck by the silence. It seems louder than all the usual sounds, perhaps because it is so rare.