Remembering the Sound of Ice in Ohio



I spent almost my entire childhood in Ohio. And Ohio is cold. We lived next to a woods and winter was fields and trees covered in snow and ice, slush and mud, then snow and ice again. Even summers there were never really hot. I guess for us living there we might feel them to be hot, but by comparison with Texas, or where I live now, they weren’t. 

(I always found it kind of funny how whenever we complained about the cold, the kids from Michigan who had moved there would tell us we don’t really know what cold is. Michigan is cold, they’d tell us. I was born in Montana where winters can be so cold cows can freeze. I don’t remember that cold and I don’t ever want to feel a place that cold.)

(Texas winters are mean and hard, like Texas summers, like everything else in Texas.)

Winters here in Tapuio are like Ohio summers, but noisy. And summers here are noisy. In fact, it’s always noisy here. Summers can be so noisy police will set up checkpoints at the entrances to some cities, searching for sound systems which if found will be confiscated and destroyed. 

Up here in Tapuio I can hear it all, the sound from the beaches and from Iconha and from the highway down below. If a tire blows out on the highway, I hear it. In late fall during the coffee harvest I can hear the high pitched screech of the coffee dryers. I can hear every rich person’s birthday party where they set up solid walls of speakers, up to 8 feet high, blasting the sound of their privilege across miles and miles of southeast Brazil. 


People here say you get used to the noise. You don’t. And I think the constant noise pollution is one reason why so many people here are alcoholics or drug addicts or use clonazepam. I suffer from hyperacusis so I’ve resorted to protecting my ears with plugs and ear covers all the time. 

I have a pair of earplugs I bought from a company in Great Britain. They’re aluminum. The company also sells titanium and even gold versions, but I can’t afford those so mine are aluminum. They work beautifully. I wear them whenever I go to Iconha. They’ve saved my hearing and my sanity.

I don’t need them here in Tapuio. Up here whenever the noise gets too loud I might put them in, but usually I use cotton. I sleep with cotton in my ears and on some weekends I take the cotton out only to shower. 

Treatment for hyperacusis involves trying to retrain your ear to build up tolerance to certain frequencies, those frequencies which cause pain and stress. It’s not recommended wearing ear plugs all the time, which apparently collapses one’s tolerance to all sound. I tried retraining my ear, listening to pink noise, going for short periods of time without ear plugs or cotton. Here in Tapuio I can now go most of the time without ear protection, but not in Iconha. 

When I remove the cotton or the plugs, everything is so loud. I hear things you might not even notice, like the way embaúba leaves clap, like clapping hands. I hear the little brown and black lizards that scamper and rustle through the leaves on the ground. I hear every raindrop hitting every leaf.

It rained last night and everything today is wet. Last night’s rain drips off every surface. This morning, standing in my back yard drinking coffee, I remembered the cotton in my ears and took it out. I was filled with the sound of ice falling from an Ohio sky and I wondered, would a Brazilian in Ohio hear not falling ice, but rain dripping off banana leaves? 

Salve a Terra Salve Tapuio

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