Monday 19 February 2018

A Sound, A Memory, A Place, A Time

seagull, bird, memory, sound

What does the sound of a seagull mean to you?

To me, this is the sound of many different things. From pain and sadness to nostalgia and childhood memories, it's undeniable that this one simple sound carries a plethora of emotions and personal memories.

Of course, it's been scientifically proven that being exposed to various different sensory stimuli can trigger memories, so this is definitely not anything new. We all remember seemingly random things and recall memories we thought lost when exposed to sights, sounds and smells. It's something that happens to everyone, although we all have different stimuli and varying degrees of reactions to each unique stimulant.

Similarly, it's important to remember that while our stimuli may be unique, the concept itself is universal. But with that in mind, there can be hundreds, possibly even thousands, of things which can cause a memory to unravel itself within our brains - many of which you don't even realise you remember until they are triggered.

So, we know that there is a link between the senses and the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and generating memories. I'm no scientist or expert by any means, but I still think it's important to discuss concepts like these and make them more approachable. After all, how many times has this exact same phenomenon happened to you? Too many to be able to count, I bet.

For many people, it is music that holds the power to be able to trigger the most memories. In any case, I know that this is how it works for me. There are dozens of songs that spark different memories in my mind, but I think that's a post for another time. Instead, for now, it's all about the seagull.

In themselves, I don't think much of seagulls. I find them intimidating, aggressive and even a little scary - especially the gigantic birds which haunted the streets of Folkestone, Kent, when I lived there. But when it comes to their cry, everything changes. For me, this is one of the most triggering sounds out there - especially irritating when it's such a common sound!

To put things into perspective, here are just a few of the memories that a seagull's cry can make me recall:
  • Seaside visits, summer holidays and trips to the coast
  • Sitting in the classroom at school just after lunchtime or morning break
  • The room I stayed in during my first year of University 
  • A few particularly aggressive seagulls divebombing my housemates as they returned home with a fish and chip supper
  • Cliffs, rain, sadness, crushing homesickness and the occasional ray of sunlight
  • Harbourside views
  • A series of short stories I once wrote
As you can see, that's quite a few memories to be triggered by just one simple sound. 

Isn't it amazing what the human brain can do?

Are there specific sounds that trigger memories for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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