Natalia's Excellent Hearing
Author: Bipedalguy


It was a clear summer night on the island. I was walking down a long path through dense woodland to a cabin on the island’s east shore. Though the moon was nearly full, I had to proceed carefully on the trail which was shaded by low, overhanging branches of Spruce, Pine and Tamarack. Along the path, I had cut out the lower dead branches to allow passage between the trees. It was like walking through a tunnel in complete darkness. The path crossed a creek about 30 feet wide at high tide. A recently built beaver dam spanned the creek. I chose to cross on a simple footbridge I had built before the beaver staked out their new digs and put in the dam. With the creek behind me, the path led me through a clear area where the moonlight let me see the path ahead. Having picked up the pace, I soon approached the cabin and could see the glow of an oil lamp through the window.

I had built the cabin close to the edge of a bluff which rose twenty feet above the bay. In daylight, the north facing view of the blue bay and of the distant rolling hills on the far shore was breathtaking. I stood for a time, just outside of the cabin, to view this now moonlit scene. I saw the lights of Annandale, a fishing village on the other shore. Also on that shore was a white church steeple moonlit and visible against the dark night sky. A thousand or maybe ten thousand stars dotted the sky like tiny punctures in night's black canopy through which light from some mysterious outside source could pass. On the eastern horizon was a lighthouse. I watched its blinking light. The night was so quiet that after a few minutes, I imagined that I could hear the light’s intermittent amber whisper as it guided any night mariners who might be entering the harbor.

Some nights, zephyrs could be heard aloft as treetops whispered of their passage. I could hear no breeze tonight, nor could I hear the soft final whimper of ripples as they expired upon my shore. I couldn’t hear the sound of any fishing boats whose motors can, on quiet nights, often be heard in Annandale’s harbor. The harbor was quiet tonight. The stillness was broken only by the barely perceptible buzz of unidentified flying insects in the distance, and by the occasional sound of a Great Blue Heron each time it waded a step or two in the shallow water near my shore. Then I thought I heard the familiar sound of one of these enormous birds flying overhead. I had never known if the sound I had often heard from these great birds in flight was from their mighty wings churning the air, or if it was the sound of their breath made heavy by labored flight.

It was much later when I heard Natalia’s approaching footsteps. She had been waiting for me inside when she decided to come out to see what was keeping me. She took a moment to behold the peaceful beauty of nature’s night display. Then she said “It’s so romantic. No sound of cars, no sound of airplanes, just the sounds of the birds and the worms”. Her final word caught me by surprise. I was well aware of Natalia’s excellent hearing, and I’d heard a bird or two, and the buzz of some insects, but I was puzzled about the worms. Could her hearing be that good?

------- Author's Notes -------

This story is non-fiction except for the following:

Although most of the story took place on Prince Edward Island, Canada, (in the Gulf of St. Lawrence) the last paragraph took place years later on the front lawn of my home on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, where I live today. It’s a modest house on a small lot, but the atmosphere there, especially at night, is very natural and beautiful. The lawn slopes down from the front of the house. After the lawn ends, the slope continues down to a rather unspoiled conservation area with four ponds, and abundant with wildlife including hawks, one family of swans (never more than one family), and Turkey Vultures, plus a wide variety of ducks. This is what inspired her quote.

We came out of the house at the same time, which differs from the story where she finally comes outside after I had been there for some time.

The final word of Natalia’s quote, i.e. “worms” didn’t puzzle me at all. This very attractive, tall, blue eyed, blond haired young lady had very recently come to America from Eastern Russia, and her English wasn’t perfect. She had mistakenly used the word “worms” instead of the word “insects”. I thought her English was very good, except for that one slip.

Natalia had come here to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology where, in 1999 she completed her Ph.D. (in physics)


Comments on this poem/writing:

Renee Berke ( -- Monday, July 21 2008, 04:25 pm

Natalia's Excellent Hearing

Wonderful description--i.e. "stars dotted the sky..."
shiloh ( -- Monday, July 21 2008, 05:41 pm

man, oh man, oh man...

don, you really must sit down, and write a book. poetry, prose, just simple descriptions like this one... each would make a chapter by itself, just in a page or two. it is such quiet, calming reading that i am now in a much better mood than i was a few minutes ago. your stuff is good therapy, don... please consider a book of thoughts... you could do it. peace... hank
Bipedalguy ( -- Saturday, July 26 2008, 01:02 am

Thanks Renee and Shiloh

Thanks for the kind comments. I'm currently working on what I hope is a funny story. I would like to write a book. Maybe I shall.
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