I live about a mile from a major interstate road which is just far enough that I can mostly forget that it is there – except when I take a walking route that goes past the houses that boarder the highway, or if I wake up in the very early hours of the morning when the neighborhood and the house are quiet enough that I can hear the tires singing on the pavement. This susurrus always reminds me of car trips, waking early in a motel near the highway, getting ready to get on the road and get closer to the destination.
Where are all of these people rushing off to in the hours that are dark and quiet when most people are snug in their beds? Is there ever a time in the 24 hour clock that the road is deserted? The distant murmur of tires travelling at speed across expanses of concrete has a lulling effect, like the white noise machines, but I can’t imagine living closer to this constant movement.
Susurrus is a word that I knew long before I knew the meaning, because of its sound. It represents the background noise in our lives. Think about how some of those noises have changed in an office – the clickety-clack of a typewriter which included the abrupt DING at the end of the line and the zip of the carriage return which has now turned into tippy-tapping of the keyboard and the soft, insistent click-click of the mouse. The silence shattering RING of the bell in an old phone has been replaced with various trilling sounds of modern phones.
These modern business implements make sounds that are more muted than their predecessors and yet the level of background noise grows in the morning as more workers arrive and slowly fall in the afternoon as workers head off to home and their personal time. Despite fabric cube walls and these lower level sounds, the susurrus in an office by mid-morning can be quite distracting depending on your current task.
Imagine if the susurrus of leaves blown by a breeze would be piped into the office to blend in with these man-made sounds. It would make me smile because the image of a lazy summer afternoon would come forward. I picked sassafras leaves because these words are fun to say together – susurrus is a murmur and sassafras, while similar in alliteration can be just a bit feisty. Say it with some emphasis, see?
We work and our senses can be dulled by the same old, same old. But there can be poetry anywhere and at any time. Poetry, to me, can be defined as the expression of brief bursts of sensory awareness. The symphony of office sounds might be poetry in susurrus instead of just another day.
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