By Margaret Lucke
In no particular order, here are nine sounds that always are music to my ears:
1. The excited cry--"Pe-eg-geee!"--of my five-year-old grandniece as she runs, arms wide, to greet me and lets me scoop her into a hug.
2. The trill and warble and screech of birds at first light--but only if they are Hawaiian birds in the tangle of palms and vines and papaya trees that surround the guest house of my friends' oceanview farm on the Big Island. Other birds should kindly stay silent until I'm thoroughly awake.
3. The rollicking rhyme and rhythm of A.A. Milne's poem "Disobedience" (full text here), which is so much fun to recite:
James James / Morrison Morrison / Weatherby George Dupree
Took great / Care of his Mother / Though he was only three.
James James / Said to his Mother, /"Mother," he said, said he;
"You must never go down to the end of the town, if you don't go down with me."
4. The sonorous notes that come from brass instruments--the trumpet, the French horn, the tuba, the trombone, and all of their relatives. I fell in love with brass during a demonstration of instruments at school in fourth grade, when we were being encouraged to sign up for the band (imagine that--in those days, schools taught music). I came home and announced to my parents that I wanted to sign up for trombone lessons. That's not a ladylike instrument, they told me. How about the violin. But for me it was brass or nothing. Which is why I can't play an instrument to this day.
5. "You won the lottery!" Okay, I've never heard these words spoken. But it would surely be music to my ears to hear them directed at me.
6. Laughter. What sounds better than friends sharing a moment of humor or delight, or strangers in an audience united in appreciation of a good joke? "Laughter is the music of life," said the renowned Canadian physician and bibliophile Sir William Osler, and who would dispute him?
7. The melody made/created by the language of "The Windhover" (full text here) by Gerard Manley Hopkins. On the surface, the poem describes a sea bird called a kestrel, but it has layers of meaning. Never mind that. Just let yourself be transported by the alliteration, assonance, and consonance--fancy lit-crit words for beautiful sound:
I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing …
8. Water music. Not Handel's or Telemann's, though those are lovely, but the sigh and sough as waves kiss the sand, or the crash as they pound a rocky shore, or the roar of a waterfall, or the burble of a gentle creek.
9. A fan telling me, "I love your book!" Those are words that warm my heart and make the work worthwhile.