DULUTH — Deck time after our return from daylight saving time is a priceless commodity. The chance to sit and watch chickadees zip in and out from the bird feeder in the sun, snarfing seeds and chattering away, will soon come to a screeching halt when the temps peak at 50.
It’s a bit of a stretch to think about parking myself outside very long wrapped up in a down jacket in a light breeze looking like the Michelin Man. At least I can watch the midday munchers from the kitchen window, but I will miss hearing their chatter.
Middle school physics tells us that echoes are a reflection of sound from a nearby surface back to our ears. A dog bark down the street in the middle of the night bounces off the walls of nearby houses like a rubber ball and disturbs our dreaming. Later in the day, the shouts of children, discovering their power to rattle the air around them, yield smiles from grumpy folks who were irritated by the watchful schnauzer earlier.
Memory is an echo, too. When the sun comes up, it reminds me of summer when a new day filled the air with the sounds of purple martins. The cup of hot coffee and muffin — now in the kitchen, in the dark — is a poor substitute for chortling birds perched on their house discussing purple-martin business.
As the temperature hovers around freezing, melancholy reflection is punctuated by pleasant recollections about early morning java and sour crème dunkers when it was warmer than 30 degrees. No donuts on the deck now, for sure!
On a visit to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, several years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a concert that included a mixture of humpback whale conversation combined with carillon bells from the McGraw Tower clock on campus. The effect was a fascinating combination of nature, music technology and sound. For the musicians I know, reverberation and repetition make their world sound off.
Music is sustained by echoes. It takes a melodic theme and expresses the tune in a variety of ways, using different instruments and combinations, layering a track here, a phrase there, measuring the depths of harmony and structure. Modern improvisation takes echo to a whole new level and enriches the textures of the music in unconventional ways. There is no straight line to these performances.
Whether it’s the upset pooch in the middle of the night or the cries of delight as a kid feels the power of their voice, echoes loop around and tie experience and memory together for a brief moment. They can bring a smile during a grim time.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.