The rumble of the Pacific Ocean as you lie on the beach, just before you drift off to sleep, cocooned in blankets, a paperback discarded in the sand.
The whistle of one of those night trains that come through Eugene, the sound that irks so many folks at the Ya-Po-Ah Terrace but makes me, just for a moment, think I’m living in Lake Wobegon.
Squirrels chattering high up in a Douglas fir.
Three thousand people at PK Park singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch. (Will it be quite the experience that Civic was? No. But that doesn’t mean the magic of baseball must disappear entirely. It’s baseball, folks, on a warm summer night!)
The final, sweet note of a Bach Festival concert.
Cold, clear McKenzie River water tumbling down from Clear Lake.
Summer sounds are the best sounds of the year. They beckon you to contemplate life, to appreciate the moment, to think back.
Years ago, when our neighborhood had more kids, a teenager would come down the street on his skateboard in the dark – I rarely saw him, only heard him – and it took me back to Draper Court in Corvallis, where I remembered a sound I haven’t heard in decades: baseball cards fluttering in the spokes of a Schwinn bike, having been clothespinned there by those of us who imagined ourselves driving Little Deuce Coupes.
I like “kid sounds” in summer: water fights, whiffle-ball banter, sprinkler play.
I particularly like the sounds of those ch-ch-ch sprinklers – Rainbirds? – that you don’t hear much anymore, replaced, as it were, by the steady shhhhh of automatic sprinklers. (Lawn irrigation is losing all its romance.)
I like camping sounds in summer, especially at dusk: the sizzle of a fire that’s down to the embers, an ax splitting a log far away, the dipping of a canoe paddle, quiet voices across a lake – goodness, there’s even something deep within me – Suttle Lake as a 6-year-old? – that welcomes the sound of an outhouse door banging shut half-a-mile away.
Of course, not all summer sounds are pleasant. The worst, I believe, is a toss-up between the personal watercraft and the jet boat, which are like lone mosquitoes in your tent: small and seemingly insignificant, but enough to ruin the night. Runner-ups include motel/hotel air-conditioning units, squawking crows and, if you’re the batter, the sound of a third-strike fastball in the mitt of a catcher. (Also one of the best if you’re simply a baseball purist.)
But good summer sounds abound: I like that thu-THUNK swimming-pool sound of a “cannonball” jump – knees tucked, hands grasping legs – and its artsier cousin, the “can-opener” – leaning back, hands grasping one bent knee.
I like the sizzle of a barbecue, the first bite of corn and, while on a walk, the quiet exchange of people on a back deck.
At the beach, a squawking California gull rarely disappoints, nor does a Red Sox game on my satellite radio.
The summer rarities are nice, too – thunder, fireworks (one night is enough for me) and the first rain after weeks of drought, preferably at night. But if we’re going to hear that “first rain after a drought,” we first need a drought, right.
So, may the rains end. And the sounds of summer begin.