My Virginia office where I write is similar to my former Ohio office. Both were converted bedrooms right across the hall from our master bedroom. Just like Ohio, my desk is right in front of a big window where I can look out onto and into the world for inspiration.
Being an easily distracted person, I actually enjoy being diverted from my writing by life’s everyday interactions that I see. I find the digressions to be mostly intriguing rather than agitating.
Life’s noises, of course, filtered in, too. Contrary to what you might think, sounds stirred me as well. The resonances I hear always have, do and will captivate me. Similarities abound between the Virginia and Ohio settings.
In Ohio, I loved the soothing sound of horseshoes clopping along against the hard macadam of County Road 201. On unusually quiet, warm days with the windows flung open, I could hear the rhythmical clack, clack, clack of the buggy horse’s cadence coming from a quarter mile away or more.
My wife and I both recognized how fortunate we were to hear that sound so regularly. Often we heard families talking or singing or sometimes occasional boom boxes blaring. Teenagers will be teenagers no matter their culture.
I miss that element of living among the Amish. Though Old Order Mennonite farms are close by our Virginia home, I’ve never seen or heard one of their buggies on our suburban neighborhood street.
I always said that our Ohio home was built on the Berlin-Wooster expressway. County Road 201 served as the chief artery between those two locales. It made easy access to both places, especially for semi-trucks. That was one sound I despised.
I loathed their use of jake brakes heading north down Number 10 hill, a ski slope-like descent. The obnoxious clatter frightened birds, bikers, and four-legged animals and woke me up too often at 3 a.m.
We don’t have that problem now. Every now and then a large delivery truck cruises past the house. It’s the exception, not the rule. Most passers-by are bikers, walkers, and leashed canines.
A mechanical sound I did enjoy during Ohio winters was the county snowplows clearing the road of the latest snowfall. They always did a marvelous job. One year they knocked down our mailbox three times in the space of two weeks.
In Virginia, it doesn’t snow enough for the state to invest in snowplow equipment for secondary highways. Instead, they contract local farmers to clear the roads with big plows on large tractors. If I hadn’t been out shoveling myself, I would have never heard them. The snow seemed to muffle their diesel engines.
Sounds that reach my office aren’t always external. In Virginia, I can easily hear the washing machine thumping and the clothes dryer spinning, buttons and zippers clinking against the tumbling metal drum even though the laundry room is at the opposite end of our ranch home. Remembering to go empty the machines is another story altogether.
Our Ohio home was a bi-level. My office was upstairs, the washer and dryer were downstairs. I seldom heard the cycle-completed buzzers. At least that was my excuse.
I still hear children playing, dogs barking, birds singing, jets sailing overhead, sirens whaling in the distance. Those are universal sounds that are part of the human condition.
It’s been a year since we moved to Virginia. The similar reassuring sounds of life in the Commonwealth mimic those of the Buckeye State. Those are sounds I can live with anywhere.