I'm distracted, sitting at my desk, trying to work on a complex edit.
It's the birds... just outside the office window in the tree that was just a sapling when we moved here almost 11 years ago.
I don't know what kind of birds they are (I leave such things to my birding half-sisters) but each fall we find the remnants of a nest no longer needed on the ground beneath the branches. While they are in that tree, we are treated to early morning vocal concerts filled with trills and whistles.
We had birds near the Mt. Laurel condo in which we lived for 19 years before coming here. But living on the second floor, we didn't benefit from their songs as often or as audibly. Still, they were there, along with the noise of traffic on the roads in front and next to us and the incessant roar of landscaping equipment.
In Berlin, where the girls and I "grew up" together from 1978 to 1989, we had birds, the shouts of children at play, nonstop barking dogs and the meows and yips from our own pets. We also had music... all kinds of music playing at all hours, from classical Mozart and Beethoven on the phonograph to 80s rock 'n roll on MTV, the new craze everyone in our household followed.
As a child, I took piano and voice lessons, practicing at home the requisite half hour per day, walking into town once a week to either Mrs. Bozarth's cozy cottage with the huge baby grand in the living room or to Mrs. Ewald's home, the manse of the local Lutheran church where her husband was pastor and she ran through the scales in her lilting soprano.
My parents were music lovers and I was never criticized for playing my Elvis records over and over again. When they took dance lessons at Arthur Murray, my stepfather taught me to jitterbug, usually to one of Elvis' or Bill Haley's classic songs.
To this day, if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can hear the sounds of each place in which I lived. Voices of those I loved, long gone but never forgotten, are harder to conjure up. Sometimes only a single word or a snippet of laughter echoes in my mind before it slips away. The old home movies don't help much. They preserved the faces and the occasions, but left the voices to memory.
The birds are singing as I write. Someone's horn just blew as a car passed the house. Otherwise, it's quiet. Silence is good, but things like the gentle lap of the ocean, the roar of the waves in the wind, the gurgle of a happy baby, the deep laughter after a joke, the halting voice of an aging relative or the sweet murmur of a loved one's voice are the pieces of life we remember.