Saturday, May 18, 2013

Alison Swan, Poet

Blue and Green: What it Smells and Sounds Like 


You can see that the sun was shining on my head, hot but not too. Here's what you can't see: the clean coppery aroma* of last summer's leaves, pale brown and beginning to curl up from their flattened spots under the gone snow.
As for the soundtrack, it was peaceful without being silent, another kind of antidote. In the background, like some sort of sonic under-painting, the roar of Lake Michigan's surf penetrated the whole scene even though the freshwater sea itself was hidden behind the hills of wooded dunes that make up the shoreline where I live.
Here's what floated up, in the way of noise, from those hills. Amid the spring dazzle of birdsong were the chamber music-like trills and buzzes of song sparrows, and a pileated woodpecker's drumming and cacophony. Pileateds were the inspiration for Woody the Woodpecker, both his look and his laugh. They're large loud birds, but decidedly less gregarious than the Warner Brothers cartoon character, heard far more often than seen. The haunting, prehistoric chortling of a few sandhill cranes  floated down through the young leaves from far far overhead.

A mile or so in one direction someone ran a leaf blower, a mile or so in another, roofers' nail guns popped again and again as an old cottage got a new roof. And a jon boat motored down the lagoon at the base of the dune on which I happened to be standing photographing the trees. The old lighthouse, accessible best by water, is getting a substantial makeover and the sounds of the project have punctuated these woods since last fall.
It would be too easy to call the sounds of the human-built world intrusions. Instead, call them reminders that I belong to a human community. I'm glad I do and anyway I must. Around here, for the most part, our shelters are modest. In a place people have made their living for centuries without displacing most of the wild things that call this home,  modest shelter seems just about perfect—and, interestingly enough in these crowded times: modern. I'm glad we've left room for these mayapples.
*As far as I can tell there are three nouns in the English language to name something that just generally smells good: fragrance, aroma, and perfume. Couple this with the fact that we're racing headlong into lives that are mostly visual and auditory and I see a great opportunity for writers. We need some new words to help us hang onto olfactory knowledge. Borrowing from other languages would be a good place to start. Ideas? (I've long thought the same thing about love, but that's another post.)



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