Ashley LodatoBy Ashley Lodato

The sounds of summer: the rhythmic trill of peepers, coyotes’ haunting cries, the gurgle of the river, wind softly brushing pines. Add for summer 2014: thunder’s electric reverberation, the bang and zap of lighting, the wail of sirens, the chak-chak-chak of helicopters, the drone of water tankers, the mesmerizing muffled rumble of a  DC-10.

And then—silence. The complete absence of noise as 1,000 well pumps stopped pumping, 1,000 refrigerators quit purring, and 1,000 phones stopped ringing. A silence so complete that you might have thought 1,000 people stopped breathing. A silence so perfect that it might have been welcome under any other circumstances. Followed by the grumble of 1,000 generators coaxed into service, breathing life into 1,000 ticking and clicking appliances. 

The sounds of the household were comforting — ice cubes rattled into freezers, alarm clocks buzzed on schedule, microwaves binged. Cell phones rang (if you had Verizon), bringing the news we were all hungry to hear. People gathered spontaneously and the sounds of the questions they asked each other bolstered spirits: “Are you OK?” “What do you need?” “What can I do to help?”

But the soothing hum of conversation couldn’t erase the sounds of radio reports telling us of houses that existed no longer, of miles of our stomping grounds reduced to ash and charcoal, of so many dreams up in smoke.

And then a little respite. The magical patter of raindrops on metal roofs, on tent flies, on parched earth was music. More music came from Brad Pinkerton with his guitar and fiddle entertaining residents of Jamie’s Place.

And other sounds from Jamie’s Place: Aristides Pappidas reading aloud and providing a “potpourri of amusement;” the sounds of the residents clapping. 

August issued forth with the roar of gale-force winds, the incessant whine of chainsaws, and the crunching grind of chippers. The terrifying thud an 80-foot Ponderosa pine makes when it hits the ground is eclipsed only by the ripping sound of its roots being torn from the earth.

Rain became magic no longer and was accompanied by the rush of creeks in flood, boulders clanking, trees tumbling, and the horrifying din of water and mud filling houses. Benson Creek residents gratefully embraced the sounds most people never hoped to have to hear—the clink and scrape of dozens of shovels clearing their homes of what the floodwaters brought in.

Chainsaws, shovels, nail guns, generators, bucket brigades—listen to them. Born of necessity, it’s these sounds—the sounds of people helping people—that are the Methow sounds of resilience and hope.

PREVIOUSLY, IN WINTHROP