Sounds Beneath Your Feet

In winter, the world tends to be quiet as blankets of snow soften the air, and bring peace to an otherwise bustling life. Fewer people venture outside, doors and windows remain closed, and only the intrepid souls dare spend more time outside than necessary. Running is my intrepid winter outdoor activity. (However, don’t be fooled. I do not handle the cold well and my toes are always cold from November – May.) Running gets me outside and it forces me to make peace with this northern, chilly quiet. It’s a good season for observation, providing views that do not exist with leafy trees.

Beyond observing with my eyes; I’ve been listening, for more than just cars or other runners. The wind howls sometimes, through the barren, icy branches and across the frozen lake. At other moments it’s still. I hear the familiar rustle of my running outfit and most noticeably the crunch of the snow beneath the treads of my sneakers, or the grit of the sand and salt on the pavement. The boardwalk by the waterfront creaks sharply in the cold as I run over it. Running allows me the chance to constantly hear the ground surface. The new snow is lighter, quieter.

When talking about historical accuracy, we do mention sounds of the environment: horses, cars, music, electronics, fans – the differences between the decades and centuries and how it affects your experience or visit to a historic site. How often do we discuss the ground surface, aside from flooring inside a house? Dirt, cobblestones, bricks, cork, wood, concrete, asphalt: what do these materials bring to mind? If you’re walking through a historic district, do you consider if a dirt road, concrete street or asphalt paved road is more appropriate? What if there are horses on the street? Do you expect to hear a certain clomp of the horseshoes, for example?

What sounds do you notice in the winter that you might not in the busy summer months?

The ice and snow of the lake have the sound of crunching ice and water rushing beneath it (a bit unnerving if you're unaccustomed to it). This makes for treacherous winter walking.

The ice and snow of the lake have the sound of crunching ice and water rushing beneath it (a bit unnerving if you’re unaccustomed to it). This makes for treacherous winter walking.

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4 thoughts on “Sounds Beneath Your Feet

  1. Chad says:

    Its not the sounds I hear, but what I don’t hear. A fresh blanket of snow at night slows the world down by muffling sound.

  2. Dave & Sharynne Wilder says:

    We agree with Chad – it’s amazing how snow, especially when it’s falling, muffles sound. “Soft” is the word.

    You speak of historical accuracy in terms of the senses; we think that smell is as important as sound. Reading Jack Finney’s “Time and Again” many years ago awoke us to the fact of a big city’s overwhelming smells: horse manure and garbage, mainly. Makes one begin to understand why people invented perfume!

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