Kremmling/Larry Banman " Sounds can evoke vivid memories
July 7, 2008
Our senses often provide a gateway into our past. I have heard that our sense of smell is the most powerful when it comes to evoking memories.
A whiff of cinnamon can remind you of your mom’s baking or the smell of lilacs can transport you to your grandma’s backyard. For me, every time I smell the acrid smoke of hot brakes, I am instantly taken back nearly 40 years to the time when I accidentally drove our tractor a mile with the parking brake engaged.
The sense of hearing, for me, is also a powerful gateway to the past.
This past Sunday afternoon as I lazily napped in front of a box fan, my mind drifted back to Sunday afternoons in the 1960s in hot, humid Kansas. Air conditioning was still somewhat of a novelty in our community. Less than a novelty in our house; frankly, it was non-existent. We had a green oscillating fan in front of which my two brothers, my two sisters and I would lie. As the second-youngest, I had an outside position. Years later I realized that the more favorable inside positions were taken by my older siblings, not because they wanted to be cozy, but because they were the recipients of more passes by the fan.
At any rate, I can still hear the whir of the fan blades as I eagerly anticipated its blessed dose of fresh air. After the breeze left, beads of sweat would slowly form on my forehead as I waited in anticipation of the fan’s return visit. That sound of blades and moving air never fails to comfort my soul, even to this day.
There are other, more powerful sounds that etch themselves in our memories.
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Visiting the ocean and hearing the pounding and relentless surf is a sound that many of us would list as a favorite. In the early 1980s, I visited a beach outside Gilroy, Calif. From the parking lot, there was a huge sand dune that completely blocked all view of the ocean. There was no mistaking, however, the presence of the ocean with its omnipresent roar. I still remember thinking as we walked up to the top of the dune and the roar grew louder and louder that I didn’t know if my senses could contain the awesome power of that sound. The noise wasn’t ear-splitting like that from a jet engine. It was, however, slightly unnerving. I also remember cresting that rise and, when taken in context of the visual massiveness of the ocean, the noise made sense.
Many of us have in our memory banks the sounds of human voices, voices that have told us of love, of appreciation, of joy, of victory and also of disappointment, frustration and even of anger.
There are other sounds that, for me, bring memories to the forefront.
The sound of a buzzer at a sporting contest brings to mind numerous memories of recent and long-distant contests. A chain saw in action always brings me to one specific firewood gathering trip near Stonyford, Calif.
One of my favorite sounds in the entire world is a muffled sound.
Have you ever fallen asleep in a room or in a vehicle in which people are talking? As you slip away into slumber, you are vaguely aware of conversation, but it is a conversation in which you don’t have to engage. That background conversation noise, accompanied by a general feeling of warmth and fuzziness, always reminds me of Saturday nights growing up in Kansas.
The work was done for the week, the round of baths had been completed, and a day of rest was awaiting. That noise brings to me feelings of contentment and satisfaction.
I was once told by a deaf man that the loss of hearing is more difficult to adjust to than the loss of eyesight. I have no experience upon which to evaluate that remark, but I believe the statement may have merit. As I have become more aware of the value of hearing, I have been less inclined to subject my ears to unprotected exposure to loud noises. In addition to the advantages our ears give us in the present, they also can provide a window to our past.