It was hearing the unique sound of a shovel scrapping against cement as a neighbour pushed ice off the sidewalk into the gutter, where the chunks of ice splashed into the running melt water, I found myself surprised by sound and stood still, listening, remembering other sounds.
I will admit most of my life not giving much thought to sound[s] per se.
Like breathing, seeing, most tactile realities of being alive, never much thought given unless something goes wrong: headaches perhaps make us brain aware; earaches, sore throat, running and being ‘out of breath’ – an odd expression as we are still, obviously, breathing! – how many gifts taken for granted!
Now that I am in my seventies and eye sight requires powerful glasses, hard running days are over, I am becoming more aware of the various gifts which both enable the physical person to function: to communicate, see, move around, reflect, imagine, and remember.
Likewise I am more likely these days to say to God: thank-You for breath of life, gift of a new day, the ability to walk, touch, hear, see, and remember.
Air raid sirens: common in my childhood, even after the war, well into the early sixties they would be tested every week. In the fifties they would be tested during school hours and the nuns would make sure we were all huddled under our desks. I thought the nuns very brave as we were supposed to be practising in case it was an actual nuclear attack and yet they simply walked among the rows of desks praying their rosaries – I figured if we got hit they would be goners!
Cracking of house in winter: Being poor there was not much heat where we lived and the wooden tenements would crack, and I mean extremely loud cracking which at night would wake you with a fright!
Gregorian chant: In my childhood long before Vatican II Sunday meant High Mass and Gregorian chant, the organ played at full blast, the unique sound of thurible hitting the extended chain as the priest incensed the altar, the bells rung at the Sanctus and various points during the Consecration and before Holy Communion – and too in those days the bells in the church tower would ring for the Angelus and I remember them tolling when Pope Pius died.
The slap of stick against puck and skates cutting through the ice playing hockey as a boy in the winter, on the streets in the summer and the oft heard cry: Car! – meaning a break in the game until some vehicle had passed by.
The haunting drum beat heard by millions around the world during the funeral of President Kennedy; the first voices heard when astronauts circled the moon and the “Small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.”
Laughter, crying, first words of a child, first time hearing their variations on Papa or Mama or Granddad/Grandma; the sound, so often heard by doctors, nurses, priests, family members, of last breaths; singing birds, great symphonies, rush hour traffic, ‘breaking news’ – which is delivered which such intensity, often not actually about something serious like 9/11, but breathlessly delivered even about snowstorms!
That haunting grief filled yet love filled, repeated over and over: “Santo Subito” from the crowd in St. Peter’s Square as then Pope, now St. John Paul II, was laid to rest.
In the fall the honking of geese foretells winter is nigh, in spring summer is soon!
I remember standing at the edge of the tunnel under Niagara Falls, the pounding water seeming more a solid than a liquid.
Perhaps no two sounds reach deeper into the human heart than a plaintive: “Help me.” – or the uniqueness of gratitude becoming sound: “Thank-you.”
Is there sound within the Holy Trinity as love is infinite-infinitely communed?
Or is that always has been, is, always will be love so pure, so absolute it transcends sound and is such brilliant light it is pure silence?
God Incarnate, Jesus, spoke and the sound of His voice, the gift of His words, can be heard every time we open and ponder the Holy Gospel.
Yes, I am most grateful there are sounds to be heard, to be remembered, yet to reach my ears.