birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Traversing the Sound

THERE, at that corner of the lumbering, square, green-and-white boat, rounding the back of the sundeck -- which will once again be the front when the ferry reverses -- I'm convinced I hear something spooky or atmospheric or artsy played over a speaker mounted somewhere just above me on the bridge.

At the airport there's an installation from the nineties where when you bend down to drink from a water fountain it plays an unsettlingly loud recording of water splashing. It stops when you step back and release the button, so you aren't immediately sure if you heard what you heard or if anyone else can hear it, and you're compelled to step forward and drink again to confirm your unexpected experience.

This is like that, like someone is playing a recording meant to evoke the moaning of a ghost. It's hollow, breathy, intermittent.

I'm looking down at people on the lower deck smiling and posing for a photograph with the receding city behind them, and at a man in sunglasses at the other edge of my deck, leaning confidently against the rail -- none of them seem to hear it. I keep walking the perimeter of the deck and the high, soft tones disappear; I approach the other, symmetrical end of the boat and pick up the broadcast again. It's a pitch well within human hearing, but at the high end. I realize this particular vessel design has a metal part, painted white, an inscrutable piece of ferry architecture that extends from the bridge over the edge of the upper deck like a wing. Why does a ferry boat need a wing? It is singing. I walk back to the identical point on the reverse end, and it is singing also. Ferries are wind, they always require a big jacket and hat so you can be out in the thick of it, at the very front extending over the smooth water where the ferry's going, or huddling in the lee at the back, but the wind is playing the ship at both ends.

Broken Travels with Tales

The Sound That Bees Make