Grace over at Graceful Yoga wrote about peepers, those little frogs who sing by the hundreds by her pond at night this time of year. She talks about how it happens every spring and she's loved falling asleep to the sound since her childhood. I immediately felt a visceral sense of comfort come over me, as I thought of a sound that did the same thing for me... a train going by in the distance.
When I was 5 we moved to a house that had train tracks and a lovely little wooden bridge that went over it, way back behind a fence that abutted our backyard. It was close, but not too close.
All the years I lived there til I left for college at 18, and anytime I'd come back for holidays, I'd hear that train coming in the distance late at night. Often it'd come around 1 AM and another around 3. Contrary to what you might think, it wasn't at all disruptive; it came on quite gently...
I could hear the soft chug chug sound and at some point, the whistle as it drew closer to the bridge. It got louder and louder until the engine was right there. The approach was long, but no sooner was that first car parallel with the house than it was speeding away, it's approach replaced by the endless clack clack, clack clack of the coal cars trailing behind, their steel wheels gliding over the seams where the tracks connected. It's rhythm lulled me in my warm bed.
I always hoped for a long train, and in those days they were. It went on for a satisfying time, as I buried myself deeper under my blanket lined with half cotton, half polyester sheets, made ultra -soft from many years of washing by my frugal, depression era mother. In that twilight state, somehow I managed to stay dreamy but alert enough to listen for the caboose as it passed and sailed off into the dark night. I made a game of seeing how long I could hear the sound of it disappearing, the whisper of it increasingly replaced by stillness until I was left with the utter absence of sound.
I'd smile even as I was sinking back into the world of dreams, as it was a reminder of the delicious fact that it was not time to get up for school, that I had hours yet to sleep.
Years later when I went back to take care of my mother, in the earlier stages of Alzheimers, and became swept up in the illusion of family life being torn apart by the stress and exchange of fortune, I was surprised by a train chugging past the house in the dead of night. I had forgotten about it in all the heartbreak and strain. Oh how comforting it was in the dark old house, with its fading carpets and outdated pictures. How comforting it was that something had remained the same, even as the circle of life was running it's inevitable course.
I found myself smiling as I always had, and for a moment felt like the world was whole again.
What was your sound?
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