A new environment

Nick Wolochatiuk ~ Dances With Words
A new environment

We are immersed in an environment that consists of sounds, odours, sights – and all kinds of other stuff.

About a month ago we all went from a buttoned-up house to an opened patio door. That led to all sorts of new sounds: someone is using a too-small mower on grass that is too tall: chug, chug…silence, then pull, pull, pull on the starter cord. If the wind is from the north, the distant passage of the freight trains and the occasional VIA Rail unit and the 18-wheelers on the 401. I can tell by the clackety, thunk, clack…which boxcar has an out-of-round wheel. The truck with aggressive tread on its tires has the distinctive sound of a swarm of bees.

Aviation being one of my passions, the overflight of aircraft piques my curiosity. I can easily differentiate between the smooth Allison turboprops of a C-130 and the higher-pitch ones of a Dash-8; the thump, thump thump of the rotor blades of a Griffon helicopter.

I can easily identify the several varieties of creatures that thrive on our deck’s feeding stations: the cooing of the doves; the excited high-pitched peep-peep of the chickadees. The little red squirrel’s angry chattering is his way of making up for his lack of brawn. Only our crows are able to carry on a conversation with us. Some of their comical utterings end in a question mark, others with an exclamation point.



SO COMMUNICATIVE! – If I’m late with their treats, I’m quickly advised by our band of crows. They manage to communicate not just with each other, but with us! (Photo by Nick Wolochatiuk)

As of June 29, I’ve been receiving treatment in Ottawa General Hospital. Its sixth-floor sealed windows exclude all familiar sounds I’ve enjoyed. There’s a periodic cacophony of alarm bells and urgent calls from helpless patients needing assistance. The hum of the central HVAC has replaced the gentle clatter of maple leaves. I’ve learned to recognize each staff’s footsteps. Only one is wearing hard-soled shoes. The meal deliverers have a distinctive linearity to their course. One attendant’s soles must be as thick as two Cornwall phone books. The sound of doctors’ footsteps is imperceptible. I think they approach the bedside of their patients to observe and make a preliminary diagnosis in silence.

I won’t tell you the sounds I utter when my leg is in any way touched or wrenched. Even a pool hall gathering would be taken aback.

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