Posts Tagged ‘crickets’

Earlier, I waxed a little poetic about crickets and our lack of them here in Seattle. Anyone who’s read my novels might remember that crickets show up pretty regularly, there, and they will always be, for me, a comforting, blanket sound. “Blanket” sounds (in KRAG-speak) are sounds that fill the night air, but stay in the background; you don’t notice them until they’re gone. There are many other sounds that I find especially comforting and that, even when they wake me up in the middle of the night, immediately settle me back to sleep.

Foghorns are a big one. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where fog is a fact of life. Here, around the Puget Sound, it is similar. If you live anywhere near the shoreline, you quickly learn whence across the night water you can expect to see the blinking eye of a beacon and hear the comforting hoot of the horns. Foghorns ask their low, gentle questions across the Sound: Are you there? Can you hear me? Are you safe?

Trains, from a distance, evoke a similar mood. When we lived in Richmond Beach, closer to the shore, the coastline trains would sound their horns as they neared town. I always smile at their forlorn, two-toned call.

My favorite “blanket” sound, though, is one I’ve only experienced a few times in my life. Almost 30 years ago, my wife and I stayed in Anchor Bay, a small coastal town in Northern California. We stayed in a small cabin up on a bluff, overlooking the Pacific and a small rocky islet. On the shingled shore of that rock lay hundreds of seals, and they would bark all day and all night, their calls mixing with the rush of the surf to create a foundation of sound that waxed and waned with the strength of the ocean breeze. It took us two nights to become accustomed to this constant noise, but once we did, sleep was deep and satisfying.

I’m sure there are other sounds others find as relaxing as these. I would be interested in what your “blanket” sounds are…


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I was born in Northern California, and all my young life, I was lulled to sleep by sounds of the night.

In the spring, the tadpoles came into frog-hood and set up a chorus that filled the moonlit air. On mist-shrouded evenings, the foghorns mourned across San Rafael Bay. On trips to the coast, the darkness was awash with the rumble-rush of waves and the bark of seals. And always, everywhere, as soon as twilight settled in, crickets began to sing, each one weaving a thread into the tapestry of sound, one reedy note at a time, to blanket the night.

The sound of crickets, ubiquitous and constant, came to mean something to me. Unknowingly, cricketsong meant home, security, and peace.

Then I moved to Seattle.

For months after moving here, I felt uneasy, unsettled. Even after I got a permanent job, a spot in the regional orchestra, and moved into a cute bungalow in a quiet neighborhood, I felt…at odds with the place. It struck me one evening when I was out tending the garden. It was a bucolic scene: the light had moved from dusk into gloaming, the horses across the bridle trail that backed our yard munched contentedly at grass, and the scent of roses was thick after the day’s warmth.

And nothing made a sound. No frogs, no night-birds, not even a cricket.

Seattle, as it turns out, has no crickets. I’m guessing that this is due to the moisture and the lack of summer heat, but I don’t know. What I do know is that crickets will sing constantly through the evening unless you come near them. Thus, a night without cricketsong felt ominous, as if something was out there, lurking, silencing the crickets with its presence.

I got used to it, over time, learning to sleep well and find peace without cricket-aid. And then, last night, I replaced my electric alarm clock.

The Lux “Symphony” is a wonderful piece of Art Deco design from the 1930s and, after a good cleaning/oiling, mine now runs perfectly. Last night, I took my electric clock away and put the Lux on the nightstand.

Laying down to sleep, I felt suddenly younger. It wasn’t hard to pinpoint the source. The sound of the clock’s mechanism, the twice-per-second tick of the brass and steel escapement, made a quiet background noise that filled a void in my brain. The Lux had become, in essence, a mechanical cricket, and its constant, unerring heartbeat struck within me a chord long left silent. I slept well and woke refreshed; it may be coincidence, but something tells me otherwise.

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