Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Sound of Traffic

It’s six a.m. California time and I’m sitting quietly on the back porch of my mom-in-law’s house in Sonora at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, feeling the summer morning settling upon me in gentle pine-misted clouds and eager bird song and cricket chirp. 

Every so often a car drives past and I am drawn to the sound. Growing up, we lived on the main road—in fact, the name of the road was Main Road—with an officially estimated twenty thousand cars passing by our house every day. I’m sure we heard them at first, those revving engines zooming and thunking and chunking like a Dr. Seuss book but I was too young to remember the growing used to it. By the time I was conscious to memory, the only sounds I noticed were the roar of motorbikes, the dumb, dumb, bumping base from cars fitted with thumperdump speakers, and the loud siren of the early morning train that cut through dark nights of wheeze and anxiety and brought my mother’s soft words of relief, “It’s morning now, Debs; you can go back to sleep, my girlie.” And I would crawl back into my own bed and let the morning thunk and thumperdump lullaby lull me into blessed sleep.

This morning in Sonora, I notice the birds are as oblivious to the sounds of traffic as we used to be. As the cars roar past, they just keep on singing away, the crickets keep cricking. After living in the country for twenty-three years, I’m surprised how loud the cars seem to me. It’s a lesson, of course. I can focus on the sound of the birds or the sound of the traffic. They are both there simultaneously. The chirping birds, the joys of my life; the traffic, the pain. 

But that’s a cliché, too. Why should the sound of traffic represent pain? A cricket in the house can drive one insane, and after a late night out, the early morning woodpeckers can drill into one’s brain, too. My mother loved living on Main Road. “It makes me feel like I’m a part of the world,” she used to say. And so I listen for my mother’s voice in the cars zooming by and think how much I miss her; how I wish I could reach out and touch her soft skin and hear her say, “It’s morning now, Debs; you can go back to sleep, my girlie.”

So, I think I will go back to bed and hope the birds shut up and let the traffic lull me back to sleep.

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