Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sounds of the shore

The deck hour between dinner and dusk usually brings the sound war between humans and nature to a peaceful conclusion. The ducks' grumbling and gabbling gradually abate; take-offs and landings at Knox County Regional have quit for the day; ospreys appear but their high-pitched "cheeps" are surprisingly soft for such a big, aggressive bird; the robins continue to produce jazz-like songs surprisingly loud for such a small, tame bird, but then they do that at 4:45 am as well; lawnmowers have been silenced in their garages; the surf flattens and diminishes; the goldfinches and chickadees perch more and chirp less; fewer breezes rattle the leaves of the birches leaning over the yard. By 8:30 all is quiet.

That hour the other night, however, was complicated by two boys, maybe 8 and 12, playing on the rocks down the shore. I use the word "playing" loosely. It seemed to consist of two activities. The first was throwing rocks, not out to sea to make big splashes, not skipping stones in a contest, or any other creative way that I could remember using stones, but merely banging them on other rocks, presumably for the sound or for proximity to toes. "Crash, bang, bonk" for an hour....The other activity was a constant, loud, aggrieved, passive-aggressive, whining chatter, from younger to older, complaining about past slights, current rock tampering, future retribution. "Why did you do that? Don't touch that rock! I'll get you!" for an hour, at volume.... Every once in a while the older brother (for they must have been brothers judging by the intimacy of the insults) responded tauntingly. Younger brother occasionally screamed in frustration, which brought some kind of weary and generic admonition from Dad sitting on the enclosed porch, perhaps with the Wall Street Journal, a Blackberry, and a Scotch in hand. I wonder if the boys would have bickered so if Dad hadn't been there. Then Mom called the boys in, and their arguments were swallowed up by the big house, and the plasma TV. Darkness fell. But unhappiness still echoed from down the shore.

I saw them the next morning, putting out several large garbage cans, still in the comforting war of words, before getting into the Volvo for whatever activity their schedule demanded for the day.

They didn't re-appear in the evenings. Night falls again to the lulling sounds of birds and surf and the natural way of life on the shore.

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