Monday, March 31, 2014

The sounds of campus

I love days with moderate temperatures because I can open my office window and let in fresh air. What I also let in is noise, and today I realized that the variety of sounds that I hear on any given day at my job couldn't be any more diverse.

There's the metallic twang of the baseball bats from the ballfield that's got to be a quarter mile away, on the other side of the building.

Geese, two kinds (Canada and Chinese), both of which sound beautifully terrible with their honking and hissing.

Father Timothy whizzing by in his golf cart. This is a sound to be cognizant of when walking one of the many paths on campus, because when you hear it coming you best clear the path. Father Timothy either doesn't see you in his way or, more likely, doesn't care. The last of the three founding monks of the abbey and the first headmaster of the school, Father Timothy has earned the right of way and he knows it. I love watching him whip past my office; how many people can claim they see a full-throttle golf cart driven by an elderly monk on a daily basis?

Faculty laughing and chatting as they cross campus between classes or head up to the dining hall at lunch.

Boys debating, singing, praying, discussing homework problems and practice schedules, and insulting each other. Sometimes all at once in the same group. And sometimes in Latin.

Gregorian chant, every day at mid-day prayer. By actual Benedictine monks who are pretty good at it.

Father Abbot's deliberate, dull thump followed by scraping, when he's on his crutches and dragging his black shoes across the tile floor of the chapel.

Rain hitting the sidewalk, the brick buildings, and my window.

The thud of lacrosse balls hitting their targets, as the boys practice informally between classes and during X period.

The squawk of our off-duty police officers' radios as they stroll past on their rounds.

Maintenance noises, including but not limited to: backhoes, Cushman carts, lawn mowers, drills, hammers, riding vacuum cleaners and industrial fans.

The boys in show choir practicing their music. Most days I relish this, and enjoy listening to them as they are quite good. Right now, however, they are working on a piece that sounds like they are singing "slow hand" over and over and over. I'm pretty sure they are not singing a Pointer Sisters hit from 1981, and I'm absolutely sure that if I have to listen to this one more afternoon I shall surely cut off mine own ears. (Thankfully there's an easy remedy for this one: I close my door and play music through my laptop. Today was St. Louis Public Radio's third hi-def station which specializes in classical.)

And sometimes strange, unidentifiable noises. This afternoon I heard what I surmised at first sound to be a pterodactyl. It was a sound I have never heard before, and I hope to never hear again. Since I'm pretty sure there are no pterodactyls on campus, I nearly got up to look out my window. A crow maybe? In distress? Was someone finally flogging a goose? Just then I looked up to see three junior school boys walking past my window. Right as they got to the middle of the window, the one closest to me turned his head, met my eyes, opened his mouth, and made the horrific, strangled caw I had been hearing. Holy moly, it was a person! He turned his head back and continued walking. It took everything I had not to bust out laughing, which was good because after they passed by, one of his friends peeked back in through my window to see my reaction. I heard pterodactyl boy come into the high school and continue down the hallway, where I'm sure he annoyed nearly every faculty member trying to teach.

I love the sounds of the campus. It feels comfortable, and the sounds make me happy. Generally I'm able to tune out just about everything and focus on my work. Except for the geese and the pterodactyl. Those I can do without.

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