At the beginning of the year one of my friend’s brothers asked her to describe what it sounds like at night here. This request intrigued me and I’ve pondered it for a long time, trying to pay attention and establish a kind of mindfulness once the sun goes down. Sounds, especially an entire atmosphere of intersecting and overlapping ones, are difficult to put into words. Here goes nothin’…
The background music of my life is birds. Sweet songs from dozens of tropical species, each in its own key, fill the days and seem to come even more alive at dusk. A few evoke the sound of chimpanzee chatter, another mimics the beep-beep-beep of a truck reversing, but mostly they are pleasant and harmonious. The spirited chirpers rustle the leaves of the banana and eucalyptus trees alongside the evening breeze and eventually settle into their nests on my roof. As they begin to calm the crickets crescendo. It’s impossible to tell if they are inside or out.
Much less graceful are the cows and goats who have been out pasturing all day and are now rounded up by their owners. They show no shame in letting their boisterous protests be heard by the entire village. The goats’ cries are especially unforgiving, bordering on violent; before I grew accustomed to them I used to swear it was children screaming something horrible. The lucky few grazers allowed to stay out after dark often find their way to the space directly outside my bedroom window, and their sneaky rustling and snorting has given me more than a few frights.
Around the same time, the roosters graciously stop their incessant, all day long cock-a-doodle-do rehearsal. You see they have to rest up for the first pronouncement of “I’m the king of the world, not you, you pompous chicken” long before the first hint of a new day.
There are also human contributions to the sound track. Streams of children recently returned from school run past my house to the borehole to fetch water for their evening baths. Their laughter and lyrical conversations float in through the windows. They are perpetually energetic and contagiously happy: they use their jerry cans as drums to accompany their chanting and singing as their little bare feet pitter-patter softly on the dirt, down the hill, and out of hearing range.
The market area just down the road comes alive once the work day is over, with street food sizzling and conversation humming. The evening call to prayer echoes from the local mosque. Families who own radios blast music in an effort to include those who don’t. If there is a football match a symphony of vuvuzelas buzzes from the field next door, and the crowd’s animated reactions follow the progress of the game up and down. Or, if a wedding or other celebratory gathering is happening, the amplified chatter of MCs and the throbbing base of dance music vibrate throughout my house.
And then, quiet.
I’m fast asleep by the time all of the chaos collapses into slumber, but whenever I wake in the middle of the night I’m always struck by the completeness of the silence. It pairs well with the raw darkness and star-strewn Milky Way sky that never misses a night.
xo – Taylor
Walls have ears, and little pots too.