Vermont can be a noisy place. It was late in March, when the trees were budding and you could feel that sense of yard work in the air. What happened was this: I woke up, as usual, when sun came over the mountain, opened my eyes, and looked outside to make sure that nothing in my immediate world had changed. When I could make out the shape of the apple tree some twenty feet from the window, I closed my eyes again.
The birds were singing by now, but I’d always been able to sleep through that. Fifteen more minutes, I told myself, then I’d get up and feed the dog and the cat and make some coffee. Just fifteen minutes.
Then, a new sound rattled the air.
It could almost have been a chain saw, warming up for business. It had the same rhythm and authority.
But it wasn’t a chain saw. It was a drumming grouse, somewhere down in the trees, but close. The bird drummed urgently and frequently and I didn’t have a chance. So I got up and went to my chores.
It went on like that, every day, until I began to expect it and treat the drumming like an alarm clock. When the grouse cooked off, I would throw off the covers and get about the day. It was better than a rooster crowing. And much better than an alarm clock.
I found the bird’s drumming log and was watching him through the binoculars one morning, when I had one of those vagrant thoughts that make you wonder at the kind of stuff that accumulates in the storage closets of the mind.
I started thinking about the sounds of life around here.