Thursday, April 22, 2010

In the Still of the Night

It’s almost always quiet around here in the morning. I watch a little news while I dress, then head to the kitchen and slide behind the table to read the paper and figure out what I have to do that day. If I resist turning on the radio, the only sounds I hear are the quiet gurgling of the refrigerator, the low hiss of the coffee pot, the gentle cooing of the mourning doves and the twitter of other early rising birds.
Yes, it’s quiet.
And it ought to be.
It needs to be, in fact, after the overnight opera of natural--and unnatural--sounds outside our bedroom window.
There’s always a period of adjustment that occurs in the spring, when milder nighttime temperatures mean I can open our windows and enjoy some fresh air when I sleep.
Or when I try to sleep, that is.
First, there’s the trains. Residents of some parts of Galva and Kewanee and the surrounding areas are used to the sound of passing freights and Amtrak liners during the day, but those first open-window nights are another matter altogether.
She: What was that?
Me: It’s just a train.
She: I know, but in the living room?
And then there’s our recalcitrant cat, the beloved Max. Springtime nights should be a cat’s delight, but the stripy little beast just can’t make up his mind on the topic of in or out. Let him out and he’s apt to pick a fight, right under our bedroom window.
...and so on.
If he gets bored, hungry, or gives into his understandable fear of raccoons and owls, he’s figured out a handy way to let us know he’s ready to come in. He’s discovered that, by shinnying up the support post to the small upstairs porch near our bedroom, then climbing the screen door and shifting his weight, he can create a satisfying (to him) slamming sound that’s sure to inform me of his wishes.
She: I think your cat wants in.
Me: Maybe the coons will get him first.
Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side of the door, even at night, so, he’s refined a cunning technique for letting me know he’s ready to head outside again. After freshening his breath with a bite or two of his favorite fish-flavored cat food, he climbs onto my chest and purrs. Now, I know a cat’s purr is supposed to be a gentle, delicate little sound, but when delivered scant millimeters from a sleeping face (mine), accompanied by the tangy, cat-breath scent of Little Frisky’s Dead Carp Delight, it’s pretty darn powerful.
...until I get up and let him out again.
The train and cat solos are backed, from time to time, by a lilting chorus of ten gazillion peeper frogs, whose little song of love is magnified by the vast number of creatures uttering it--PEEP, PEEP, PEEP, PEEP, PEEP, PEEP--plus the absolutely indescribable sound of raccoons in their mating ritual, which is, apparently either incredibly pleasurable or devastatingly painful, judging from the shrieks and squawks they emit while going at it. Also on the bill, now and then, is a neighborhood dog who has, I think, been asking to be let in since sometime around the summer of 1936.
Then 5:30 rolls around.
It’s the alarm.
But guess what? After hours of train/cat/critter cacophony, I’m very often finally off to dreamland.
I heard my spouse, who does a better job filtering out the nighttime noises than me, on the phone the other day, talking to a friend about the differences in our daily schedules, comparing her early-to-rise teacher day with my night-owl sportswriter schedule.
“John sleeps right through the alarm some mornings,” she said blithely.
“Nothing ever wakes him up.”


  1. Even the train sounds that run through Denton remind me of Galva.

  2. This is so darn funny esp. since we lived in that neighborhood so many years. Aw yes the neighbor who placed their 4 x 8 ft. kennal under our bedroom window and were raising & breeding hunting dogs. Hence: we moved to the country...

  3. John, I so thoroughly enjoyed this article/musings. Can your articles be sent out to people (me) via Facebook? Or is that impracticle? (Or legally not OK, since you publish...)Otherwise I'll set my alarm to check on you on thursdays.... Thank you for these delightful presents! Mim Van Winkle