The earth has its voices and songs. It has its own languages crafted over millennia through slow and patient processes, its dialects peculiar to geological regions or areas of weather, to places of particular precipitation. The earth has its voices and songs just as we have our own, a music born of place, notes threaded together by winds and tides, by land and water.
Avalanches thunder across steep slopes and reeds crackle in the cold like old bones. Rocks tumble into canyons, a distance measured by a long receding echo of stone hitting stone that becomes fainter as it falls. Grasses whisper with the wind, a restless conversation moving through a meadow. Trees sigh in a storm and dry leaves rattle across parched earth. Seedpods snap open in the sun. Rains fill a jungle with the beats of a million drums. Even the silence of snow is a song, in the same way that John Cage’s 4”33 is a song, something rich and articulate, a compressed aria of the sounds around us we so easily miss.
Ice covers the small lake this winter. It wears a shawl for the season as though it were suddenly ageing with grey beauty. Some days channels of black water open and close on it like eyes blinking against the light, while on others the ice borrows a speckled sheen that resembles the cryptic plumage of birds that nest in its reeds. And on some days the ice is masked by cloud, shrouded by fog or mist that unrolls like a dream after waking. Then the lake is only there in your ears.
The music is haunting and beautiful, shifting in ethereal and unknowable ways from one day to the next. There are songs that could come from a lost tribe of sea creatures stranded beneath the ice, a moaning and wailing from the depths. Sonar pulses rise through the cold winds, composed into a suite of strange and otherworldly sounds. The music can resemble water that is boiling, bubbling up in a pan the size of the lake. Or it might pop and ping, tinkle like ice cubes in a glass. There are days when it could be a xylophone being played, a cold fiesta on the frozen surface. The music is as varied as the shapes that water can take.
Leaving the lake behind for another day I see snow moving across the ice like a line of dancers dressed in white, a choreography of wind, a sinuous sweep that echoes the cold front pushing down from the north. It is the lake’s equivalent of the village festivals that roar through the summer nights, the wild blaring trumpets and irrepressible dances that turn in a circle to mark a season of plenty. The lines of snow weave and wend over the ice, like ghosts moving to the music from below, celebrating the voices of winter, hearing the songs of the world.