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December 13, 2009

Real depression, the kind that sticks around, as opposed to the low days that most of us get from time to time, is a paradox. On the one hand, it is an experience of great pain. On the other, one of its worst aspects is that the senses feel dulled, almost numb. Food loses its taste, sunsets seem boring, a touch from a loved one means nothing. The narrator of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar puts it well:

I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.

That is why, for me, keeping in touch with the senses is important, a way of guarding against the low days becoming something more lasting. The early morning light, the aroma of roast chicken, the feel of silk yarn slipping through the fingers – all these things are defences against the dead weight of depression. So I am grateful to sound artist Felix, whose postings this month have made me think again about the importance of listening well. I particularly love her description here of the sound of swans in flight.

All day I have been thinking about the sounds that mean a lot to me in everyday life. I think my favourite has to be that of any of our three teenagers careering down the stairs on their way out. They all do it in their own special way, but so long as there is that bass note of rhinoceros charge, I know that they feel enthusiastic about life, whatever the day’s particular challenges may be. There is also the hiss of the kettle as I wait for the first, and best, cup of tea of the day. And this morning, with it being Sunday, I woke later than usual and was grateful for the cawing of a rook overhead. I hadn’t realised before that one of the hard things about winter mornings is the absence of birdsong.

What about you? What sounds are important in your day?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2009 9:33 am

    I love the idea of bass note rhinoceros charge and your whole description of your favourite sounds.

    My favourite sounds are the sound of Mark’s boiler, the sounds the cat makes when he is coming indoors and wishes to announce himself, the sound of the wind when I have a nice hat on to keep it out of my ears, the sound of my car sparking into life when I start the ignition, the sound of the gas cooker when I switch it on and it vooms into life, the sound of Mark’s breathing beside me when we sleep, the sound of people singing Christmas carols in town, the lovely tinkle of muesli going into a bowl, the sounds of toast, the growl of an aeroplane passing overhead, the little glitchy sound when Mark’s gate opens, the dull quiet of my own hallway when the heavy door shuts against the roar of traffic… I could go on and on!

  2. redmires permalink
    December 14, 2009 8:13 pm

    Wonderful! I think you have woken my ears up!

  3. Susie permalink
    December 15, 2009 6:20 pm

    my favourite sound would have to be all the different laughs and giggles I hear as I pass each room of the house 🙂

  4. December 17, 2009 1:30 am

    The milkman in the morning; letters landing on the mat; bathwater running; horses walking by; blackbirds singing; water dripping from leaves; my bicycle bell; the sound of a fire shifting in the grate; my washing machine; this keyboard; the river. I like to hear rooks too.

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