Beach House

However thick its walls, a beach house will always be transparent to the sounds of the sea. They tend to disregard obvious entry points like windows and cracks, preferring to infiltrate directly through the wall, roof, even the floor.

Faraway crashing waves can be the most mysterious: by the time they reach the house, they can often be mistaken for wind, rustling of leaves, or a distant thunderstorm. The big ones however can sound like slow-motion explosions or faraway gun shots, or how one would expect a supernova at the edge of the universe to sound: weak, soft, but completely stereo-sonic, as the inner layers of a star fall apart under their own gravity.

Nearby waves on the other hand are gentler, less mysterious but more distinctive, each one different that the one before it. Individual sounds are much more discernible, such as splashing, gulping and clicking effects, sometimes even a rock that has just been displaced as it hits another rock and transmits its sound partly on air, partly through water. By far my favourite sound is that of the beach gravel as it is dragged back down into the sea when a big wave recedes. It sounds just like the crackling of a prolonged thunder. Although the two sounds are completely unrelated, now that I think of it what they have in common is that they both have to travel through a layer of water.

All of these individual sounds become modified as they enter the house, almost as if they have gone through a musician’s post-production studio. A select few appear to be amplified, while others yet seem to be coming from all directions, as well as from inside the house, obviously having resonated with one of the structures or materials of the building. But it does give the pleasant sensation that the house is somewhere on, or in, the ocean. The overlay of evening crickets is the only definitive proof that you’re not sitting at the bottom of the sea.

Waves are a reminder of the explosive forces that all of us were made of. They are echoes of a distant war, one that could come back any minute. The forces that create are the same forces that destroy. Creation, destruction, action, reaction. We can disturb this circle, but eventually an answer will come back to us in the form of a wave, possibly amplified.

George is a chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , join his mailing list, or read his books

5 thoughts on “Beach House

  1. Makes we want to move back to Oregon. Had a cabin on a loud mountain river, was awesome. Thanks for the feeling of water again.

  2. Missed this one a week ago, George. Just found it now when going through some older emails. Considerably shorter than some of yours but very effective.


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