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Cupping my hands to my ears

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

An unusually bright moon woke me up, by shining in my face, and it would not let me sleep again. I dressed and went out for a walk.

It was 4:30 in the morning and the world was white with frost. We walked out of the farm, the dog and I, and up a steep incline to the crest of the nearby hill. The sky was perfectly clear, and the stars shone bright and butter-fat, and there was no wind at all.

Here and there, far away, gleamed the lights of distant farms. Right in front of me hung Orion, the Great Hunter, and to the right, The Pleiades, whom Old Norsemen compared to frosted fur.

The dog scented a fox and took off into the night. I cupped my hands to my ears to listen for her and slowly turned around on my heel. When you cup your hands like this, you hear exceptionally well. Any normal human can hear a fox cackling and point out the direction from which the sound comes. But when you cup your hands to your ears, you can hear exactly both direction and distance — that fox was in that copse of trees, maybe a mile away.

Slowly, as I turned, I took other sounds in: an owl hooting maybe a mile off; a car driving in a village four miles away (!) — I heard it before I saw the long beam of its lights lighting up briefly some trees on a distant hill. And then I heard the water gurgling in a stream maybe half a mile away.

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