I'm surprised how quiet it is outside, the kids all inside the local Catholic school. Mom's back home to tend to the children not yet in school or to work, Dad's off at work, the retirees in the neighborhood, staying inside, out of single digit temperatures. Off in the distance the wail of a police siren. The ground is hard and knotted, the houses stare silently forward, not acknowledging anything that exists in their peripheral vision. The morning light falls down upon their steps, without sound. That lack of sound does not seem odd, it is simply Winter.
The sounds continue into evening, a summer shower off of the lake, releasing the scent of flowers into the damp air, crickets sawing away in the grass with a sound you can almost feel as a tickle on the skin, There is the wave of a neighbor, as they take in the paper, the clink of a couple of glasses of mint julep, there in the small traveling island of silence that follows us to the front porch.
We know who has had a new child, by the toys that sprout in the yard, like colorful flowers, and we note when a house grows silent, a sign gone up for a quick sale, the owner having passed away, time consuming not just courage but muscle and bone, until nothing was left but a frail form draped in a white sheet, like a piece of furniture unused. We didn't notice the exact time of leaving, but can't help but speak of the remains.
From the floor in my little office, comes a rumble, a growl. There is no one on the street, no person walking past. Yet four minutes later, the UPS struck arrives, the dog can hear it even as it makes it's turn from the main road onto this little side street, a canines super hearing that can detect his arch enemy the UPS truck or a crumb dropping in the kitchen. He barks ferociously at the driver, who, through the glass window, simply smiles, knowing that roar is a black lab with no will to bite. I open the door for the box, a rush of cold air coming in, the front room now smelling of trees, as it goes silent again, the dog turning around twice on the couch, before drifting off to sleep again.
The only sound now, that of breath and the tick of that old clock. I don't deliberately listen to it, the ticks seemingly beyond the realm of hearing, then in a moment, with that one tick your ears respond to, you are acutely aware, of the long diminishing train of time you did not hear. How many ticks in this house in a hundred years. How many after I am long gone? Yet, I feel the presence of others that have lived here, for they perhaps aren't truly dead, but simply were worn down by the minute clicking of small gears. The echo of those that sat in this room, do not disturb me, they are part of this house, the sound of wood, the creak one of murmuring bones, the air that taps on ancient glass, speaks of deep winds that witnessed more than time.
At the end of this day, the shop growing cold, I take a quick walk before dinner. As the neighborhood ticks outside, a slow and steady beat, comes the sound of the trains, the tracks a half mile away, carrying a sound on the air that is as comforting as childhood. I watch the movement that is static serenity and labored exhaust, a click, click as it moves away, through eternal trees, faded to thick sky, the train displacing air. What is that formula about the displacement of air? Or was that only in water that Archimedes of Syracuse calculated human displacement of. I put my hand on my hip and only displace air. Reductio ad absurdum, the absurdity of human logic where a two pound piece of forged steel on a hip weighs more than the form carrying it.
It's the last place I ever expected to live, but I am blessed to be here. I ascend the stairs, the air smelling of trees, clutching the old key to the back door, there on a little ring with a train etched on it. In the growing dark, I don't really see it, but I feel it, there in my hands, clutching that little anchor to a life in a small village, a life unexpected, but as welcoming as home.. The house sighs as I open the door; I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, moving away from the mirror into the warmth, my form darting out of the mirror, the sound, tick, tock, tick, breath that breathes life back into this old house.