Listen to This City


October 19, 2011, Washington, DC: A trumpet played last night outside an open window. Rain pounded the city street in this morning’s darkness. Tonight we hear the patter of high heels on a wet brick sidewalk, and sirens, and crunching leaves, and a plane bound for Reagan, and car doors closing as people arrive back home. There’s glass landing in a nearby recycling bin, a presumably tiny dog barking, laughter down below, a far off tv. A doorknob turns downstairs. There’s a sneeze we assume belongs to the delivery man, but it’s the neighbors’ friend, returning from walking their dog.

There is noise here in the city. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Is that when you know you belong in a place like this? When it's the silence that makes you nervous? In this season of open windows, noise seeps easily into our apartment above the street on Capitol Hill. It’s not a very busy city street, but it still comes with sounds. I'm comforted by them. The slightest creek of a floorboard or exhale of a home in a silent neighborhood can be more unsettling than unfamiliar voices on a city street.

Listening tonight, I'm aware how visual I am in recording these places. I'm reminded that it's also the sounds, the smells and the textures that describe our hometowns. And I'm reminded to stay quiet a bit more often myself, so I can hear what’s out there and listen to whatever may come.