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Listening for a change

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By Kirsten Peters

When I walk on Sundays with my faithful mutt along the bottom of the Snake River Canyon, I usually hear only the wind in my ears.    

It’s surprising how loud a breeze can be in a human ear, and try as I might I’ve not found anything about breeze-sounds to be particularly interesting. Still, just to keep me awake, perhaps, Mother Nature punctuates the breeze sometimes with a snake’s rattle in the warmth of summer — and, of course, I do listen carefully for them.

But springs are actually my favorite for listening in the canyon. Some Sunday afternoons the air is absolutely still. When that’s the case, I get a special treat: I literally hear the Earth falling apart.

The sound comes from the rocks above my head. It starts as a little tink-tink murmur that is followed up by a tap-tap sound. Finally, the rock — usually no bigger than a piece of gravel — gets down near my level and I hear the swishing sound of it passing through the air as it reaches the ground.

Occasionally the high tink-tink murmur sets off a small cascade of sounds. One tink-tink leads to two tap-taps which lead to a miniature rolling thunder of gravel coming down toward me and the railroad tracks on which I walk.


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