This evening as I am sat on our sofa with my daughter fast asleep across my lap it is quiet enough to hear the relentless traffic on the motorway nearby and the snapping of the pods on a tree just down the road. I’ve never really associated trees with noise before but this one is home to an orchestra of cicadas in the sticky summer months and the sudden cracking open of the hardened pods in the dry winter months is startling in quiet moments. The gaudy coconut palms across the street rustle and sway in competition just before a storm hits in an attempt to contribute something to the drama of the moment.
The neighbourhood dogs are very quiet right now. I can only hear a solitary bark somewhere in the distance. They barked themselves into a frenzy when a pair of riderless horses passed the house earlier today, the mare’s shoes ringing metallically with every step now that the road has been tarmacked, with her foal following, unshod and muted. I didn’t recognise these horses and they aren’t the ones we see on our walks. We often happen across the man who looks after them as he’s cutting down eight foot tall capim with a machete or cycling back to the smallholding just down the road with the leaves loudly sweeping the road on either side behind him. I’ve learnt to distinguish the noise of the shredder now too as the capim is fed in on one side and alfalfa spat out the other.
My aunt’s laugh from the house next door cuts through all other sounds as she and her friend regale each other with the latest local intrigues and share videos from Facebook.
It’s too late now to hear a tinny and off-key version of Beethoven’s Für Elise as the gas truck does its rounds but I can still make out a car-mounted loudspeaker advertising its owner’s wares. The blaring bass of truck horns sound occasionally from the motorway (although my daughter is convinced these blasts are ships’ klaxons and she cannot be persuaded otherwise, despite us being 100 kilometres from the sea).
The birds are mostly quiet now, the piercing shrieks of maritacas (green parakeet) and bem-te-vis (great kiskadee flycatcher) mercifully absent while they roost for the night, the parakeets in the palm trees and the bem-te-vi pair sheltering in their nest at the top of the telephone post.
The chickens, who are so vocal in daylight hours about anything that is bothering them or to triumphantly celebrate the laying of an egg, (perhaps because they reject their bespoke nesting boxes in order to outdo each other in finding the most ridiculously inappropriate place to lay their eggs, the latest to date being five feet above the ground on the sloping roof of the chicken run), are now asleep and finally silent. The cockerel, though, in his never-ending tit-for-tat spat with his neighbour, will doubtless start crowing soon and keep that up on and off throughout the night.
The dogs are also excellently equipped to keep everyone from sleeping as they use the early hours to hunt rats in the back garden and my husband suspects the nocturnal yowling we sometimes hear to be a jaguatirica (ocelot) drawn to the outskirts of the town by the presence of chickens.
But of course, the soundtrack changes as soon as my daughter wakes up and puts an end to my time of reflection and calm.
This post was originally published on the 11th of August 2020 and has been transferred from my previous blog (Brazil from the outside in hosted by Blogger) after some technical difficulties with the site.