We often take for granted all the sounds that surround us. Familiar sounds from childhood comfort me. When I was a little girl, I liked the sounds of morning and of evening the best. in the middle was all kinds of cacophony of people and activity, but on the edges, the sounds of the earth sighing.
At night-time, sitting out on the step, I heard the whir of the cicadas, loud and clear, almost like electric wires humming overhead. Early evenings, I was sure to see the barn swallows swooping low in pairs, heading for the barn, gliding like tiny kites, noiseless in the night air. The breeze stirred the leaves in the trees and made waves in the hay-field, as heat-lightning flicked on the horizon, waking up the crickets. Or maybe the evening just got still enough for the crickets to start chirping; they liked it quiet. I thought about Jiminy Cricket as Pinocchio’s conscience. No wonder Pinocchio had such a hard time listening; crickets stayed quiet until everyone was still, then they start singing, loud and clear. Maybe that’s why I had to stay still and pray, so I could hear God, just like Pinocchio and Jiminy. I sure could see why it took so long to be a real boy and why Pinocchio got into so much trouble; even when my body was quiet, my mind started talking loud.
When I got into bed at night, I heard all kinds of sounds: a train toot-tooting far off in the next town over, a dog barking over at the neighbors, and then another one even farther away, answering the first one, or maybe just passing the message along to the next dog down the road. I could hear a car coming miles away, humming louder as it got closer. I tried to guess which direction the car was traveling, then the headlights peaked through the lace curtains and cast two rectangles of light against the wall. If the rectangles moved clockwise, the car was from past my best-friend-from-the-bus Betty’s house, counter-clockwise, and it was coming from the other direction; then whhhiiishhhh, the car was gone, and just the sound of the breeze rustling the leaves. Sometimes I got up and looked out the window at the weeping willow; if she was tossing her hair up high and angry in the wind, rain was coming. That reminded me of what Father said about weeping and gnashing of teeth, and I thought that’s probably what souls in hell looked like, except those souls never got happy again ’cause they were in hell forever and ever, and that big willow tree would be looking perked up and happy as could be in the morning ’cause of all that rain soaking in around her feet, and on account of all the nitrogen the lightning put in the ground. I learned about that in school.
When I heard the stairway door’s spring squeak and the third step from the bottom groan, I high-tailed it back into bed, ’cause I was supposed to be asleep already. I closed my eyes and listened: that was Dad coming up to use the bathroom. I could hear the pennies in his pocket clink against a spare bolt and washer as he hitched his left leg up and he gave a little harumphing sigh at the top step. Dad blasted out a big stinker noise, that was the cork popping out before he started to go “number one,” then that harumphing sigh again, the toilet flushed, and the stairs creaked to let me know he was on his way back downstairs. The low sound of TV drifted up and I knew he was laying on the couch, all cuddled up to Mom, he in back with his arm around her waist, snugging her in tight like he was afraid she would fall. Dad’s low laughs and Mom’s higher giggles floated up the stairs, as the two of them laughed at Johnny Carson’s jokes, or some private joke of their own. Those two always had something funny going on between them.
In the morning the sun woke up the rooster by painting a big red and purple ribbon right along the bottom of the earth. The distant trees trunks looked like painted black sticks. The rooster started crowing like he just discovered morning and wanted me to take a look, but he was too late. The starlings started cackling and the sparrows in the eaves were chirping away at about the time the sun started thinking about what shade of red to paint that ribbon, so I already knew morning was almost here. Besides that, sounds from the kitchen were already drifting up the stairs carrying up the smell of breakfast. Dad opened the back door with that same harumphing and hitching he always made, rattling the milk pail as he poured Belle’s milk through the filter and Mom got the pasteurizer ready to go. Pretty soon, I was about to be roused out of bed, and sent out to collect eggs and battle that darned rooster who thought he could boss those chickens around, and me too. But for a few more minutes, I just watched the ballerinas on my bedroom wallpaper brighten from deep rose and come to life as the rays of sun streamed in all around me. This for sure was what heaven was like.
It’s no surprise that the best time to pray is at the cusp of evening and again at the break of day. Rest Safely: Hear my voice while you Dream. Hello Again cherished ones: Listen before you Go.