Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Listening to the desert

We often do not pay much attention to sounds except for the irritating ones like noisy cars with blasting stereos, construction machinery close to our homes, or whining kids and the neighbor's barking dogs. That is a mistake. Reading a book about writing memoirs ,I found some reminders abut how much of a trigger some sounds can be.  So I began to think about listening to the desert--the places I have lived and loved for the greater parts of my life and what I heard and filed away, almost without thought.

The wind--it can whisper or howl, sigh through pine trees up in the mountains or whine in the wires as a clue bad weather is probably coming. There can be a few days when the high desert sits becalmed and heat lies heavy over all like a down cover on your winter bed, but that is rare. Much more often, you can feel a breeze and if you listen you can hear it. The gentlest rustle of mesquite leaves, the flutter of cottonwood leaves above, perhaps some twigs sliding against each other. Here it is more often windy--to me anything over 10 MPH is a wind and not a breeze, to heck with what the official designation is! But breeze or wind, it still talks. Fortunately this is not a really noisy place so I can often hear it and other natural sounds.

The birds. Very early on summer mornings almost everywhere I have lived, birds wake at the first blush of light. The sleepy twitters are soft and almost hesitant at first but grow in volume and frequency with the light. Then the doves start. My favorites are the mourning doves with their soft whoo-ooo-ooo, the middle 'syllable' rising a little, almost breathy and yes, melancholy. The white wings sound more like some of the pigeons--I am not a fan of feral pigeons but it is still a coo rather than the burble-barfy sound the pigeons make. Finally an invasive new species, the Chinese ring-necked doves make a coo that almost imitates a distant voice saying, "bravo six", over and over, like a radio call! I remember and especially like the mourning doves. I heard them so much out at some of the leased pastures and areas where we keep livestock which I visited daily for a number of years. The ones here have a subtly different sound but it is still familiar.

I love the quail too. The Gambel's have a very distinct call, mostly the males. In the spring they call a lot until they find a female to bond with, at least for the season. Both parents care for the babies and watch over them closely until they are close to half grown. Sometimes there seem not to be enough hens to go around and the bachelors get hoarse and begin to look a bit derelict in their lonely state for the coveys break up and each pair goes off alone until the chicks are near-grown late in the summer. For a time, the solitary males are very lonely! I expect some fall prey to hawks or other predators due to carelessness. Nature's way, perhaps, of balancing things again.

And there are the Road Runners. They are New Mexico's state bird but also prevalent in Arizona. The male's spring mating call is an odd burbly sound somewhat like strumming a heavy rubber band, stretched tight. I guess the girls get the message for after a bit you can see a male strutting past with a lizard in his beak, taking it back to the nest to feed his lady while she sits on the eggs. To call one another they have low coo similar to the dove but softer. They are in the Coo Coo family and it is a 'coo-coo' sort of sound.

The song birds have various calls, some I know and some I do not. The thrashers have a slightly lispy whistle. The Finches may sing like a canary (which is actually a kind of Gold Finch) and the sparrows just chirp and twitter. The grackles do 'grackle' in a cackly scratchy way, very talkative birds!

Hummingbirds make a shrill little chatter when they are contesting over a feeder or perch plus the buzz of their wings in fight-flight and in the male's display while courting. The Black Chinned males especially fly in huge looping arcs and their wings almost scream as they descend, a very high pitched whistle. I have not heard it here but in Arizona they had a distinct little song for late fall as they prepared to go south, a squeaky, ratchety little tune repeated two or three times.

Several places I have lived, I have to add the sound of trains. While not exclusive to or part of the desert, they are familiar and comforting to me. In the Verde Valley my brother and I looked forward to the arrival of "The Local", a mixed freight out of Prescott that came for one to three times a week. In Flagstaff I lived a short block from the Santa Fe mainline for two years and grew very used to the sounds. Then there was a long time without that sound. I discovered it again in Hurley, NM with another local coming on from Deming, not quite daily but often. My second sojourn in Colorado, we lived about a mile from the main line shared at that time by BNSF and UP. That sound followed us down to Alamogordo where we hear trains day and night, again a familiar and comfortable sound. We are probably a long half mile from the track here, a connecting one between the BNSF route across northern NM and the UP tracks across the southern edge. One grade crossing is nearly due west and they all blow the familiar long,short,long,long warning whistle as they approach it. Then the steel wheels on the steel rails have a totally distinctive sound, not quite a whine or a whistle but unique.

So I suggest you listen--wherever you are, there will be distinct sounds which will come to trigger certain memories and moods. If you can reconnect with those you knew while growing up or at other specific stages of your life it can be pleasant to reconnect with them or at least let them trigger happy memories. I do that often.

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