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6. Sound Memories
By Gretchen Legler
Genre: Non-fiction
Year: 1997 Category: Student Examples

The squeak, squeak, squeak of boots on snow, is a sound I will remember from Antarctica. The sound is the sound of boots on snow so cold and dry that it creaks like styrofoam being stepped on. On a cold night at the beginning of October I stood out in the middle of a snow camp, tents set up all around me, protected by walls made of blocks of this dry, dry snow. Mostly everyone else was asleep or getting ready for bed, snuggling down into their big sleeping bags. Except I was awake, and the photographer was awake. I stood still in the middle of the camp, listening and taking notes, while he walked around the camp and from every angle, taking pictures. Had I been blind, I would have been easily able to follow him with my ears-squeak, squeak, squeak, crunch, crunch, squeak, crunch. The wind howling in the galley door is another sound I will remember from Antarctica-wind screaming in on really stormy days, at a higher pitch that I can sing, sounding so much like a piece of machinery gone haywire, or an animal caught short, surprised or afraid. I'll remember the wind whooop, whoooop, whoopping through the electrical and telephone wires. In one spot in particular, behind the galley and between the two buildings that house the town's two bars, the winds whipped and howled, moaned and moaned and moaned, around the buildings, into nooks and out again, eddying and swirling, dancing, and buzzing through the wires overhead, playing the wires, as if they were the strings of a deep base, and pushing me along, pushing me, hurrying me along, so much so that I had to lean back into the strength of it to keep my balance. Island and iceI'll remember the wind at the windows, knocking in a thick, padded, muffled kind of way, so that you might imagine there was someone out there, wanting you to open up, open up, let them in. And the wind whistling down the hollow shaft of a bamboo pole, a pole staked out in the snow and topped with a green flag to show the way down the road, or the way from my tent site to the outhouse. It was whistling just as if the bamboo were a flute of sorts, and the wind was blowing into it playing a merry tune. I'll remember the sound of small cotton flags slap, slap, slapping in the wind, slapping up against themselves and slapping at the poles they are tied to. I'll remember the almost nothing sound of wind across the ice, smooth and moving fast, blowing from nowhere to everywhere, taking with it your breath, the snow at your feet, the fur of your parka hood, all of your heat.


What I have tried to do in this short experiment is gather up some of the most characteristic sounds of the time I have spent in Antarctica so far. I tried to describe the sounds-compare them to something else unlike themselves, but I also tried to create the sound in words as well-words like whoooop, whooop, whoooop or slap, slap, slap. I am trying to create a sense of place through the use of these sounds.

Writing Exercise:

Either recall or go to a special place of yours and first make a list of all the sounds that you can remember that are most characteristic of that place. They try to come up with the exact words for the sounds-what the sound sounds like (whooop, whooop, whoop), then try to relate it to something (like styrofoam being stepped on). Write about 250 words.
Illustration above is "Inacessible Island and Windblown Ice." Copyright 11.24.97

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