Chirps throb the canyon like a choral heartbeat. A cricket orchestra keeping time for the waxing moon. The silent night, held hostage by a choir of bugs.
Resounding, yet incredibly distant… the insect-jingle sleighbells against canyon walls with a perfect, unending meter. Like tireless, clomping Clydesdales in full regalia, trotting on a far-away treadmill.
But there is a backbone to this ringing pulse. Underlying the cadent song—a distant, unrelenting whistle brigade. Like 10,000 British bobbies halting an entire city all at once. The policemen perpetually exhale, harmonizing their sustained whistle-screech against the low, pulsing cricketsong.
The air is warm, but crisp on the edges, like overdone toast. A damp mountain smell hangs heavy in the night, dripping with moss and dew and earth.
There is peace here. Expansive, absorbent love. These canyon sounds wash into my car and over my stressed-out, anxiety-ridden, crunched-up, clinched, multitasked day—once I turn off the engine and open the door. Home at last from the concrete jungle. A buzzing, chirping, whistling, pulsing salve of oak trees and berried things seeps in—pervading my skin, flowing through me like brain floss.
It is not until a certain sound stops suddenly, that I notice its contribution to this mountain opus. I close my car door—and for a beat and a half, squeaky jiggle-springs stop to listen. They resume a moment later, satisfied that danger has passed. I stand there next to my car, wondering if it’s a short-term memory problem, an overabundance of confidence, or the fact that their existence speeds by at rate ten times that of my own reality. A hyper-dimension, where a brief second is long enough to consider nearby danger and then dismiss it, carelessly. The rusty spring-bugs resume their waggle, rejoining the sleighbells and bobby whistles: an old washing machine spinning dry the wet squeaks of the day, just beyond a tree, somewhere.
I wait. Breathe. Exhale for the first time since this morning. Home washes over me. This is the best part of my day. My pause. My release. My renewal.
Much nearer, a loud zipper starts and stops. Directionless, elusive, and playful. Oh, how I wish just once I could find the bug zipping up his luggage for winter! He is timid, though… and always hears me looking for him, even over his zipping din. He stops mid-zip. Holding his breath until I give up the search.
Sifted nightsounds waft through a moonbeam in my screen door. My heavy head sinks through my pillow into a slow-motion Nestea plunge. I breathe deeply the autumn song. Drifting. Listening.
Stereo purrs warm my sides, nestling deep under covers.
A cackle interrupts the steady, choral ensemble. The coyotes are telling bedtime stories, squealing the triumphs and follies of the day. This tale must have been particularly exciting, as dogs near and far, join in the howling hubbub.
Neighborhood puppies secretly wish they were coyotes. All, that is, except for Red Dog, who is content. Unphased day or night, to sleep in the middle of the one-lane road. Just where it curves around a magnificent oak, which bows gracefully over the roof of my cottage. I lay there thinking about Red Dog listening to the pack’s laughter, as he lolls on the midnight street.
The storytelling subsides and cricketpulse is once more in the fore… the canyon’s nocturnal heartbeat.
I wait, trying to empty my mind. Listening. Emptying. Listening.
Unremitting vigilance for sleep’s arrival... I clutch desperately to my consciousness, waiting to fall. Listening. Emptying. Listening. Emptying.
Exhaustion wins, and the buzzing, whistling, chirping, squeaking, howling chorus grows fainter, like a band marching way down the street, just turning the corner. The wind carries fading sleighbells away from Here. Away, to Someplace Else.
Then, a low, slow voice… almost imperceptible… eases me into my dreams. I’m not sure I heard it. Yes, I did. There she is again… hooting me to sleep. Singing softly, “Who-HOO…… who…… who…” An alto lullaby whispering into the piney, night air.
And I am adrift, in peace.
© 2005 Deirdre Cooley