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The Sounds of Spring

 

Allergy season has been blinding me. I go outside into a fog of loose green flying things, and the dogs take advantage and drag me where they will.

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Cricket is very proud of herself.

But it’s made me more sensitive to the noises all around me. For example, there is a woodpecker somewhere in the backyard who sounds like he’s using a jackhammer to knock down all of the trees, at seven o’clock in the morning! The woodpecker’s name seems small for the sound he makes. His job is to peck at the wood to find bugs to eat, but I wonder, sometimes, if he’s got a megaphone attached to the side of his beak, to make himself sound more impressive, or maybe woodpeckers really have started to use power tools, just to mess with our minds.

My nose hurts in sympathy whenever I hear that woodpecker, but I’ve never seen him. My idea of a woodpecker is probably distorted, though, because I’ve only ever seen one animated in cartoons, so I may have seen him without realizing it.

woody woodpecker

I have not seen anyone looking like this.

Butterfly loves to stand still and listen to the noises all around her. She’s equally intrigued by a beautiful bird song, the sound of the wind through the trees, and an airplane flying way too low over our heads. The only sound she specifically dislikes is the bus that stops on our corner, and the mechanized female voice that announces each location.

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Butterfly in listening pose.

There are some odd creatures out in the woods. I don’t know which animal makes the strangled baby noise, but the first time I heard it, I thought it was actually a baby, being strangled, and I looked everywhere to try and find it. There’s also an animal out there with a smoker’s cough, though that could actually be one of my neighbors hiding in the woods, choking to death. I can’t be sure.

I like the swish of the wind and the traditional birdsong, a little tweet here, a little twitter there, but the variety certainly does keep things interesting.

And then there are the two feral cats, Hershey and Gimpy (named by the human residents, not by themselves) who take up zones at opposite ends of the yard and avoid each other religiously. Hershey likes to climb the retaining wall and look down on her fiefdom. Gimpy likes to hide in the manicured bushes and climb through hollowed out trees.

IMG_1050

Hershey, on guard.

One day I saw Gimpy leaning against my mom’s temporary green house (like a pup tent, but for plants) trying to steal some warmth on a chilly day.

The girls have been taking advantage of my frequent need to stop and sneeze. Cricket has been eating extra grass and sniffing extra smells, and Butterfly has been doing her sound meditations, letting the wind curve the sound around her ears in a new way each time.

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Butterfly listening from another direction.

But at least they don’t seem to mind that I use their poopie bags to collect my used tissues, so that I don’t have to stuff them back into my jacket pocket after use. Maybe they remember that day, early in the season, when I had forgotten to fill my pockets with fresh tissues and had to sneeze into my t-shirt. Cricket looked at me funny when that happened, which is rich, given that she actually eats tissues filled with snot. Harrumph.

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“I can hear you, Mommy.”

 

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

96 responses »

  1. I am sorry to hear that airborne pollen is making your life miserable, too.

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  2. When I moved to the mountains from a more urban state, a woodpecker’s constant pecking on my garage roof drove me crazy (I worked the overnight shift). I finally called the Dept of Wildlife to see if they had any helpful tips to make him go away. They faxed me the most interesting article. Apparently it’s called “drumming” and if a woodpecker successfully mated, he will return to the same area the next year and drum. The article also said that woodpeckers are afraid of spiders. I went in search of those black plastic spiders that are sold in little bags at Halloween. Finally found some, took a ladder, climbed up and hammered spiders all over the roof. The drumming stopped and I was able to start sleeping again…

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  3. Maybe those choking sounds are people eating the bird-choking bread “crumbs”. Sorry to hear of your allergies. I sympathize!

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  4. Butterfly looks so very fluffy from every angle–so cute! Ha! I love that Cricket gets the last word.

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  5. This is the first time I’ve ever had trouble with allergies so I can relate. It’s been horrible!!

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  6. I can empathize with being miserable during allergy season, luckily I went through almost 4 years of allergy shots so now I suffer much, much less. The pain of the shots was so worth it. I lived through a woodpecker one season and it was sooooooo frustrating! 6:00 a.m every morning, day in and day out, I managed to catch sight of him or her and it was strange to see a nondescript bird responsible for such a racket, I expected something on a grander scale like the cartoon but it was kind of on the smaller side. The girls are adorable even when they tease you about your use of tissues and tee-shirt. 😀

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  7. We have a flicker that drums on our chimney every morning around 6. It certainly wakes us, but it’s just part of spring that will pass – like the hay fever.

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  8. Your description of the bird sounds was hilarious! I would love to see a woodpecker, too. I hear one a lot, but I never see him or her.

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  9. Woodpeckers here don’t make a noise. They make holes for nest in saguaro cactus.

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  10. Ah, yes. This is my sneezing time, too. I’m pretty sure that the choking and coughing sounds you hear are birds too, but that’s about as far as my expert opinion goes 🙂

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  11. Bummer about the allergies. I have them too, in spring AND autumn.

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  12. A fascinating walk. I hope the allergy season doesn’t last too long

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  13. My cat keeps trying to eat my tissues too. Yuck. Sounds like the dog’s ear is better? I hope?

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  14. I live in the woods – we have a woodpecker – a piliated woodpecker, the big ones, that kinda look like Woody – who comes to our bird feeder. We also have huge holes in dead trees where they’ve pecked for bugs.
    The noise you’ve heard that sounds like a baby crying? Do you have any foxes in the area? The mating call of a fox sounds like a woman being murdered. The first time I heard it, I told my husband to call 911!
    I wish Cricket and Butterfly could come visit me, they would have so much fun with all the sounds and smells here.

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  15. Love this post! Its hilarious! You’re dogs are so cute in all these pictures! I just went on walk today and Cinnamon was dragging me along too so I understand how it is! The part about the woodpecker cracked me up!

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  16. The trees in this neighborhood are old and dying. We get a lot pf woodpeckers and they are very loud. The baby crying sound could be several creatures, including opossums, At least you have a little nature around you, I find urban areas very sterile and stressful. I really enjoyed this post, the girls are a wonderful example of how to enjoy the small things in life.

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  17. Wonderful photos, as usual. A homeopathic pharmacist told me to take 500mg of Quercetin with each meal and a glass of water. This got me off Flonase. Everyone I tell this to seems to get great results. Quercetin is an antioxidant vitamin that comes from apples and brightly colored veggies and fruits. It’s available at health food stores and online at Amazon and lots of other places. I hope it helps! 💛 (and yes, I’m dying to draw your doggy again hehe)

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  18. Allergies are the worst! Hope you feel better soon!

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  19. Poor you. In a recent telephone conversation, my oldest son was complaining about allergies he never had and has now acquired at age 51. I reminded him that as we age our immune systems begin to break down. He was very quiet, then said, thanks Mom.

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  20. Your ‘crying baby’ may have been foxes, and the animal with a cough could actually have been some kind of bird. I’m only guessing, but we hear some interesting noises at all hours here on the water. At the moment we have fields of sheep and lambs, tweets of baby moorhens, a lonely blackbird trying to attract a mate, and a variety of geese and swans that fly overhead. In the early hours, ducks are having punch ups alongside our boat, but the rocking of disturbed water soon sends me back to sleep. Maggie doesn’t like anything that buzzes though, and retreats either to the bathroom or bed. Glad I don’t have allergies. Sneezing at the moment could be quite dramatic! Hope you feel better soon.

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  21. Here, early in the mornings, you can both see and hear them. They sit on lamp pole metal caps. You can hear them hundreds of meters away. I think they communicate using morse codes 🙂 I too use poopie bags for used tissues and am happy I have not, so far, had to use my i-shirt. Ufff, Cricket, don’t eat the tissues 😀

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    • But she loves those tissues! I had to change over all of my garbage cans to covered ones very early on in her life. But her Grandma refused to give in, so Cricket still has her sources.

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  22. My husband and I have been having a rough allergy season too — wet spring here in North Texas .

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  23. I hope you feel better soon.

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  24. I agree, allergies are mean, but the wind turns then positively evil! However, the pictures of Butterfly listening to and enjoying the wind are very sweet! She seems like such a peaceful, easy-going girl :).

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  25. A lot of these allergies start dramatically and then very gradually fade. So with my hayfever (I keyed hatfever, interesting) and my allergy to sticking plaster, it seems.

    You’ve never knowingly seen a woodpecker? Assuming it’s not your American big one (Pileated), try putting out a peanut feeder (that is, a feeder with peanuts in it, not to feed peanuts). Next best, look up the pictures online.

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  26. Such a fun post! You do a beautiful job of weaving together spring, dogs, even allergies.

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  27. Here is an odd thing – I never suffered from Hay Fever in Scotland but only a few weeks after getting here and I was sick, I was told I had Hay Fever. Very odd!! Still have bouts from time to time.

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    • I’ve noticed that I have more severe allergies when I’m in a new environment. Maybe we develop resistance to the allergens where we grow up, but once we move to a new place, all bets are off.

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  28. Interesting, how dogs react to sounds… The beep of our car horn sets Chicki off. It’s not easy to drive while she expresses her displeasure…

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  29. Lovely writing, as always~
    I love the sounds of Nature, especially in spring. Once I heard something that sounded like a real Woodpecker’s repetitive hammering and actually saw him through the window right in front of me. Don’t remember why, but I woke up unusually early that morning, somewhere before 6 o’clock and got really lucky.
    We live in a place surrounded by large green parks and wake up each morning to the song of a pair of Great Tits and the chirping of Sparrows. Sometimes the song of a Nightingale can be heard too, flowing through the tree tops, especially in the afternoons. In the early morning hours rare and shy small birds can be seen flitting through. One time I had the luck to see the rare Long-tailed Tit, perching on a branch in front of my window!

    Hope your allergy goes away. I always wear sunglasses with polarized lenses outdoors, especially on windy days and large ones in bright sunlight, be it winter or summer all the same. It helps a lot with allergies and sneezing in spring, keeping the pollen out. xO 🐾

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    • I need to get out my golden guide to birds so I can see what all of those birds look like. The big question is: who named these birds?!!!!!

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      • Ha, good question! Especially because bird names have different meanings in different languages. :p For example the name for woodpecker in Slavic languages i.e. Serbian detlić/детлић or Russian дятел comes from the word for chisel tool – dleto/длето, долото.

      • Chisel makes a lot of sense!

  30. John Coleman

    Hi, Rachel. Those strangling baby noises might be coming from Hershey or Gimpy. Cats, especially in heat, make bizarre baby howls. Peace, John

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  31. Eating local honey is supposed to help with pollen allergies. I don’t know if it actually works because I don’t have pollen allergies, but I’ve heard it from various sources so it might be worth a try.

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  32. Inspiring how you find beauty amid misery of allergies. I went thru a bout with them a couple of years ago. Never could find a tissue when I needed it, couldn’t wear mascara, & postnasal drip kept me up all night. Numerous visits to doctor, various meds, nothing worked till I tried MSM. Wishing you the best. Oh, & love the kitty foto!

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  33. Woodpeckers never adhere to code violations. But you can never catch ’em!

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  34. I hate allergies… I myself have problems with that and an undergoing immunotherapy as they were life threatening a few times. :/

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  35. Our woodpeckers have gone quiet now… After the constant twittering of the babies it seems they just took flight and went… I wonder where…
    Luckily we don’t suffer with any allergies, just as well really as we’re surrounded by trees and fields. Hope you get yours sorted.

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  36. It’s so interesting what you have written, please check this app out: it’s a sound meter and it’s pretty cool medidordesonido.wordpress.com/

    Reply

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