Friday, April 18, 2008

Sounds of Spring

Our house is situated almost at the end of our cul-de-sac.  Over our backyard fence is a slice of another neighbor's yard, and then a huge cemetery, which at our end is mostly grasses.  If I squint, I can see headstones off in the distance.  Our bedroom windows open on to a view of this open(ish) space, and on sunny days, I like to open the sliding glass doors and windows so that I can appreciate the glorious spring sunshine, catch a breeze, watch the new buds on the trees come into bloom.

Here is what we can hear from our bedroom, at any given moment: 

1)  a neighbor blasting the sounds of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." 

2)  the roar of middle-aged men revving their motorcycles for rides along the foothills.

3)  the foxes yipping and howling over a cat or possum they've caught, in the middle of the night.  We try to keep our cats in, but the girls don't always close the patio doors.  I imagine some night we might hear one of our cats out there, but I hope not.

4)  the long, patterned pulls of train whistles.  The trains move back and forth, back and forth through the cemetery, which seems to also be the location for a switching station.  I find this comforting.  Somewhere when I was a kid--maybe at one of my dad's houses--trains went by a lot.  I find them soothing.  They make Eric question his sanity.  Being a musician and scientist, he struggles to make sense of the patterns, to order them.  This usually goes on at 3am.

5)  songbirds.  Once, last spring, one of the hawks that frequently circles the skies above our neighborhood had landed in the low branches of a tree in our backyard, and was noisily tearing a songbird apart, screeching and dropping feathers and beak below for Addie and I to wonder and mourn over.

6)  the constant, distant hum of the freeway as it bends into the mountains.

7)  the obnoxious and irregular catches of a neighbor using his chainsaw (how many trees can be left in that little suburban yard?  Let it rest!).

8)  deafening rushes of wind.  Our house creaks and moans in these moments, as if it were a boat breaking apart over an iceberg.  We both start and giggle nervously at this, joking about the noise.  We're both secretly terrified the skeleton of the house may not be sound.

9)  squirrels chattering, mating, taunting our cats through the screen doors.

10)  the yells of junior high kids on their way home.

I have contradictory reactions to each; I sleep to the sound of the train whistle, and curse the coal its cars carry.  I speak jovially and easily with our neighbor, but hate chainsaws and motorcycles, or at least what they represent in the hands of middle-aged white men.  I am glad to be in proximity to the wild animals, but also cringe a bit at their brutality.  The supposed civilization of the freeway doesn't offer any solace, either, and in fact represents its own brutality.  I miss not interrogating all of this, and would rather just stand from a place of observation and not judgment.  But it's hard to silence those voices--loudest of all sounds--in my head.

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