By Robert Ross

A Symphony of Sounds

Poets write about water and sounds. They write about the roar of waterfalls and the murmur of trickling brooks. They write about the thunder of crashing waves and the quiet of a meadow pond. Poets are attracted to water, not only for the visual beauty, but for the sounds. Water can produce a symphony of sounds

Listen . . .

It starts in the locker room; faint screams and yells from the pool area, the clanging of metal lockers as they slam shut, and the clink of the padlock. Conversations float through the air looking for eager participants. In the shower a swishing sound is heard as the water pushes its way through the tiny holes of the showerhead. To the swimmer, these are ceremonial sounds, for the locker room is a transition zone - a zone somewhere between the harsh world of cars and trucks, and the soft hypnotic world of water..

Indoor Pools
Approaching the water's edge, currents of sounds are heard, some are voices bouncing off walls, others of water churning. The sounds at times take on an eerie quality as the shouts from children echo through the building. The splashing of the water, the yells from ecstatic children playing and the admonishments from the lifeguard seem to flow into one another.

A swimmer approaches the lifeguard to ask a question. The lifeguard leans an ear, then responds, speaking succinctly and directly toward the person, knowing that, because of the multitude of sounds in the building, the turn of a head or momentary shout from a child could lead to a misunderstanding.

The Swim
As I lower myself into the water, a swimmer in the adjacent lane approaches the wall then tucks under and reemerges, having completed his flip turn. Momentarily, the water slaps against the side of the pool. I accept the greeting and begin my swim.

The workout begins with the kickboard. Pushing off the side of the pool, my feet begin slapping the water ‹ like a paddle wheel steamship on the Mississippi whacking the water with its wooden planks. The laps flow into one another. My paddle wheeler slowly builds to a full head of steam and soon my feet are banging on the water as though I was heading for the next port of call.

Warmed up, I turn my attention to the crawl and am immediately drawn to the sound of breathing, the quick gasps for air, and the sound of tumbling bricks as the air is pushed out through pursed lips. Every few seconds the sequence repeats itself. And as my speed increases, so does the need for air. If one stretches his imagination a bit, it's not too difficult to string together the air gasps . . . aaah . . . aaah . . . aaah . . . aaah . . . aaah, picturing a far off train chugging along the tracks. Can a high pitched whoo-whoo from the train's whistle be far off?

The workout continues, using fins, pull-buoy and finally some interval work. Each segment bringing with it a unique set of sounds.

Near the end of the swim while floating gently on my back, ears below the water line, I hear a sound that transports me to the outer reaches of the galaxy. It's reminiscent of the movie 2001 when one of the astronauts is outside of the space ship, alone in a vast darkness. The sound of breathing is all that is heard. First a slow inhale . . . aaaaah . . . then an exhale . . . ooooah . . . inhale . . . aaaaah . . . exhale . . . ooooah . . . aaaaah . . . ooooah. For a few moments, I'm carried away, to a different time, a different place.

The workout finished, I head back to the transition zone and the sound of the showers, the lockers slamming shut, and the conversations that float through the air. It's no wonder that poets write about water. A trip to the local pool reveals a symphony of sounds . . . one need only listen . . .

ęCopyright 1998, by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

Robert Ross can be reached at   

Return to the January/February Issue Index page