The other night, I sat on a newly refurbished bench (thanks to my dad) in our backyard. Michelle and I were playing a card game while enjoying pristine Seattle summer weather. In the distance, I heard the low rumble of train tracks and a whistle call out through the summer night sky. The welcomed noise emitted from the train running along tracks that accompany the Puget Sound near the downtown area of where we live.
Hearing that sound evoked the usual feeling in me when I experience the piercing train whistle. I’m big on nostalgia, maybe obsessed with the notion sometimes. When I hear a train whistle at night, I feel this nostalgic sense of loneliness. This is not a tragic sense of loneliness, mind you. The feeling is hard to explain but I would liken the experience to comfort, loneliness and a peacefulness all mixed together.
At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the matter as I was in the middle of trying to beat Michelle at cards but I’ve thought about my sonic encounter for a few days after. I have had a similar experiences whenever I hear a train blowing at night.
I have not felt lonely for a long time and I do not feel lonely now. My marriage is very happy and a sanctuary of sorts from the normal stuff in life that I deal with on the day-to-day. I certainly have felt lonely in the past during different episodes of my life, sometimes rather intensely, but not recently. The train whistle though evoked memories of those feelings.
After I thought about the experience, I remembered back to my middle teenage years. That is where hearing that familiar whistle, whenever and wherever I heard it, brings me back too. I recall lying in my bedroom, dark, and the curtains of my window are open looking out to the suburban neighborhood of Kent.
On those nights, I was reflective and being young, I had little clue as to where my life would journey on toward. I didn’t have a girlfriend and sometimes I didn’t feel like I fit in at school (even though I was involved in a ton of activities and was getting to know a lot of people). This must have been the source of the lonely feeling. However, I also felt comfort probably from being raised by two great parents and a sense of peace that no matter what happened in life (or how long my life was), I had confidence that God was guiding my path.
People say that music is the soundtrack of life. That any given song can take us back to past lives that we have led in the decades before. I’m struck by how, not just music, but the sounds of life around can take us back in time. Occasionally, the sounds of life can very vividly help us revisit old times. Of course, this could be a celebrated phenomena or a tragic one all depending on what we have been through or where we have come from.
Another sound that reminds me of childhood is the murmur of a plane engine overhead. On a bright sunny day when I hear this noise, I remember being a kid and running around on a playground at recess.