What does summer sound like?
Well, how appropriate. We’re at the lake, and I’ve decided to blog about what I hear. Cradling my laptop, I head through the kitchen porch toward the open deck when there’s a shout from inside. “Don’t let the screen door slap!” I won’t tell you whose voice it is lest I incriminate him, but suffice it to say that, after many years of resolving issues, I know how to handle the guy.
I let the screen door slap … softly. Out of defiance? No. Out of sheer necessity. The slap of a screen door is, to me, the essence of summer. It conjures up carefree days spent running in and out of the house, which is what so often happens at a lake house.
Here in New Hampshire, we call lake houses ‘camps.’ We’ve had ours for fifteen years, ever since Lake News came out, actually, and how lucky we are. Please know that I never take this place for granted. My favorite season is the dead of winter, when we drive down the old dirt road with enough food, books, and firewood to last the weekend.
But this is summer. That screen door is done slapping, and I’m sitting in an Adirondack rocker on a deck overlooking the lake. Visually, it’s beautiful. But I’m listening. Listening. Listening. It’s a game I play with my grandkids; I take them out here with me and ask, “What do you hear?” Everyday life is so busy and loud that we don’t often focus on sounds. But sounds enhance an experience, and I want their visit with us as rich as can be. Hence, the game.
What do I hear now?
I hear birds. I can’t see them; they’re lost in the pine needles, hemlock branches, and birch leaves of the woods surrounding the house. But they are truly lyrical this morning. Same with the chip-chip-chip-chip of chipmunks.
I hear a breeze. Feel it, too. Both sound and feel are gentle, healthy, welcome after a too-long stretch of stifling heat.
I hear kids. Love this sound. Is there anything happier than the squeals of water-play? Even the splash of bodies hitting the water from rocks, docks, and boats has its own charm.
Speaking of boats, there they are. Speedboats, fishing boats, jet skis – close my eyes, and the difference between them is marked.
Oh. There’s a loon. That mournful sound was my first love at the lake.
Suddenly now I hear a plane. They don’t come around often, and the sound isn’t as welcome as the others I’ve mentioned, but at least this one isn’t a jet. It’s either a little prop thing taking tourists on a flyover or a seaplane looking for a place to land.
Plane’s gone. Boats have moved out into the bay. Kids are in for breakfast. Or lunch.
And there it is, the voice of the lake itself, organic and unembellished, as it laps the shore. That sound and I go back a long way. I spent seven childhood summers as a girls’ camp in Maine; having worked my way up to the oldest bunk, I spent the last of those summers with eighteen other girls in a lodge (named, appropriately, The Lodge) away from the other bunks and literally six feet from the lake. We fell asleep every night to that lapping sound. Woke up to it, too. That was the only requirement I had when my husband and I were looking to buy a lake house. I had to be able to hear that lapping sound from time to time.
Feeling the peace of it now, I click SAVE, re-cradle my laptop, and head back into the house. I open the screen door, pause, pass through and let it slap shut behind me – because, sorry hubby, but aside from the sough of lake water against the shore, nothing says summer as sweetly as that.
What says it for you?
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You brought me right back to my days at the cottage in my youth.. Our screen door always shut with a “slap”. I can still hear my mom or dad telling us not let the screen door slap closed… But hey when there are five or more kids in and out it, it’s hard to remember to do that… Thanks for this lovely memory of summers gone by…
We do not have a lake house but summer on the front porch or camped in the RV beside a mountain stream is symbolized by the sounds of birds, squirrels, rooster crowing…we too enjoy having time with the grands listening to whatever they might hear from the wood edge or hollow!
Summer sounds that I enjoy are mixing the soil in the garden with a rake and shovel; the clicking of squirrels feet as they chase each other up and around a tree; voices of joggers and walkers that echo in the distance; buzzing of a hummingbird feeding in the annuals on the porch; heavy footsteps of deer in the woods out back while relaxing around a campfire; the boom of fireworks at night.
I spent my childhood summers on an island in Georgian Bay (part of the Great Lakes). Our cottage had a screen door with a spring to keep it closed. That spring creaked when the door opened and then slapped the door shut — I can hear it now. Power boats were not as common then as they are today and I can remember racing to the top of the rock with binoculars when we would hear the distant hum of a motor. We could hear the sound before the speck was large enough to identify and I would peer through the binoculars until I could see who was coming. Was it the supply boat with the mail? A taxi boat bringing someone to a nearby island? Or someone coming to visit us? All the boats were distinctive and could be identified at a great distance.
All kinds of birds hummed and chirped and screeched, chipmunks and squirrels chattered as they gathered their winter supply of acorns and other little creatures made a rustling sound as they scurried through the tall grass that grew in little patches in the spaces between the rocks. And there were the sounds of water, crashing on Stony Beach behind the cottage when the wind was from the west, quietly lapping on the shore in the still of the night or drumming on the roof as it poured from the sky during a wild storm.
It’s not the same anymore — now there is the constant hum and roar of boats coming and going through the channel — and they all look alike with white fibreglass hulls and outboard motors on the back and the sound of raucous music pouring from their stereo systems that are cranked up so that the passengers can hear it above the engine noise. No it’s not the same anymore but sometimes early in the morning you can still experience the quiet stillness when the only sounds are the birds and animals waking up for the day.
I have been exactly where you are. I have experienced everything you have written. As a child until I was 10 and 40 years later as an adult renting and revisiting the childhood Camp my Dad had built for us but unfortunately had sold. I can hear the sounds and smell the smells that are uniquely summer, camp and the lake just as you described them. Thanks for the memories!