A friend of mine got a new hearing aid. Goes with the territory of our advancing age I suppose. He’s not the first among our group, won’t be the last (I’m sure) and I may cross over to their side sooner than later if people don’t stop mumbling.
But this friend talked about it a little more openly than the others. He said the nicest thing about wearing the device was he could hear things.
And the sounds he like best were the things he hadn’t heard in the longest.
Bird’s chirping. The quiet splash of his fishing line and bobber hitting the water. The crackle of a fire in the fireplace.
It’s made me think, and, now and again do an assessment of my own hearing. If I could add to his list, I’d add the whir of the ceiling fan just as I am falling asleep; a baby’s coo; raindrops splashing; cicadas buzzing in the night’s quiet; coffee perking; a kitten purring.
Every time I pass my own test and hear a good sound, I count it as a sweet affirmation. And I listen for as long as I can just glad that I can. Funny how I probably wouldn’t have thought to appreciate the good if someone hadn’t reminded me, and odd how it’s made me more patient with noise – vacuum cleaner whine; crowd chatter; players warming up in the gym before a basketball or volleyball game – than I am inclined to be.
OK, going down what is going to seem (at first) like a rabbit trail, I want to share this. Last Sunday, waking up from a blessed after-church nap and feeling that first alert of peace and calm before being seized by the “I have to get up. I have a column to write, this to do and that to finish,” I checked Facebook. (Bad habit, and I’ve been thinking about how I really should Facebook less, enjoy real life more. I’m just not there yet.)
Anyway, the first thing on my feed was a primary reason I can’t give up Facebook. There was something – almost a gift, really – right there on my feed to see, hear and listen to. An old camp counselor colleague of mine posted short video clips of her “return” and weekend visit to Camp Mitre Peak.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been blessed enough to visit the Girl Scout camp in the Davis Mountains between Alpine and Fort Davis. I don’t know if a single visit would do you. For the full effect it needs to be more than 40 years ago and you need to be younger than 20 – you need to stay the whole summer, going in thinking you know more than you do and coming home with the realization there are more things in life than you can ever learn, but you’re glad you were able to witness some of them.
There were a couple of videos of my friend Tinker’s (Well Tinker is her camp name) hike to first and second pools. Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous the way the mountains reflect in the pools’ smooth-as-glass surfaces. “Perfect reflection,” I thought. Upside down was as good as right side up, so peaceful and smooth was the water. But oh, the lovely sound of water rushing over the rocks was what had me play the video again, and again.
The memories came like a flood, the trail up the mountain, the serenity of the place; the “this is nice, but let’s get in the water” impatience of campers. It’s been years, but I remembered with precision, and now fondness, that place I loved.
All that said, it was Tinker’s third video that got me – a flag ceremony in front of Great Hall. Colors are raised every morning at 7 at camp; retired each evening at 6. There’s protocol to follow. Younger girls follow the older girls’ lead and the tradition of utmost respect prevails.
I listened to the muffled trampling of the girls’ feet on the dirt horseshoe-shaped path around the flag pole, with no one uttering a word; the orders to the color guard, and the squeak of the chain as the flag was lowered for the girls to fold. While they did that in silence, a West Texas breeze clanked the chain against the pole, a forgotten sound of long ago I would have recognized anywhere.
And it sounded like the music of a song I’m so glad I got to hear – once again.
Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.