sounds that are always there

00:00 / 00:35

a dishwasher running / the silence of water poured over coffee grounds

     Some sounds exist in a continuous string. These are the Earth’s housekeeping sounds, sweeping wind through trees and prairie grass, shifting below the surface as she makes herself inhabitable for us. In bursts, mourning doves coo from the deck, two at a time, and preen their feathers with a stiff shuffle. I sometimes mistake this for silence.

     The distance between sound and silence is immeasurable. This morning I stood in the kitchen alone, listening fiercely in an attempt to capture the sound of almost-boiling water poured in slow circles over coffee grounds. It was early and—I thought—silent, but any coffee noises were masked by the humming of the dishwasher and, one room over, the water-logged churning of the washing machine. From above, the electric buzz of recessed lighting fell like dust on my shoulders. The tea kettle began to whistle and the stovetop hissed as tiny droplets of water landed on the surface, sizzling into immediate evaporation. I wanted to hear each microscopic bubble of carbon dioxide burst as the coffee bloomed. Maybe it sounded like a gooseneck watering can tipped into a potted plant. I wouldn't know. Instead, I heard the ticking of a wall clock and, beneath it all, the steady blow of centralized air.