Living in London, I sometimes forget that the general din of the city drowns out other things. I know, when I'm walking down the street that the only thing I am hearing is the chugging of busses. Conversation, laughter and any other general noises, including a cyclist yelling at me to get out of her way – which happened today – are all lost.
Whenever I head back to the countryside, I am always shocked by how quiet it is – I can't hear the things that make a noise in the countryside – namely birds and other animals – so it really is just me and silence.
So yesterday, while away for the weekend in the country imagine my shock when I heard an echo.
It was late, it was dark, one of the cats we were cat-sitting had gone AWOL. We had to head back to London, but I didn't want to leave him outside, when he's never been an outside-at-night cat, has a phobia of heights and cannot jump. He's the most uncatlike cat I've ever met. He wags his tail when you tickle his tummy, he follows you around like a small dog. Forget lean, mean killing machine, his most notable prey to date is a butterfly and that was by accident when he thwacked it with his gigantic fox-like tail.
So I wasn't overly keen at leaving him out overnight until the other cat-sitters arrived.
Standing at the back door, the night dark except for the glow of the moon, I called his name and listened – although what for I'm not sure seeing as I have NEVER heard a cat meow. But instead, I heard my voice echo in the night.
I heard my very first echo.
Amazed, I called the cat's name again and once again, it came bouncing back clear enough for me to make out.
So I said it again, and again, more for the fun of hearing an echo than trying to get the cat back. The neighbours must have thought I was a screw loose.
My deafness really is the oddest thing. Sometimes it floors me with the detail it takes from my life. It takes away the conversations, the television, the podcasts, and quite possibly my career development. It takes away my confidence frequently and happiness sometimes. And it rarely ever gives.
But just sometimes, it says 'Hey DG, how about this?' and gives me something totally unexpected. Like the time I heard my best friend's newborn baby cry while I was snoozing on her sofa and was up and holding the said bawling infant before knowing anything had happened.
Or the time I went to see David Gilmore in concert and the Division Bell that had been inaudible on the MP3 track on my iPhone was suddenly very audible in all its metal glory.
And then last night, I heard an echo. A beautiful, clear echo. It was so amazing, it made me want to cry. Or tell everyone. Or run around letting people know that my deafness had just given me a break.
Do you know, echos remind me of the harmonics I had the brief privilege of hearing on my violin (I reckon I had harmonics for about one year before my hearing took a nose-dive). They're clear, they're ethereal, they're only there if you treat them carefully and listen carefully, and last night I did. In the stillness of the countryside.
In other news: the cat stayed out all night.