Posts Tagged ‘foghorns’

Think Seattle. Think rain? Think again.

For the past fortnight, Seattle has been wrapped, swathed, and swaddled with fog. It’s been like living in a cloud. Foghorns call across the Sound, echoed by ghostly ferries out on the cold waters. Hillsides disappear, the Space Needle is missing its top half, and the sun has been replaced by a vague drear that illuminates the mist but provides no aid to vision. Heading up to the park-and-ride this morning, visibility ended a block up the street. Streetlamps, stop lights, and brake lights defined the roadway with glowing balls of light.

Overnight, temps drop into the 20s and the fog freezes as it touches down, creating slick, invisible ice and limning everything with hoar. During the day, the mercury barely gets its head above freezing, and the frost persists near houses and fencelines, wherever the weak sunlight cannot reach.

Drive up to the mountains, though, and you’ll break through the inversion layer. At 1000 feet, the sunlight coalesces into an orange ball above. At 1500 feet, you break through into open air and a cloudless sky. Temperatures soar, and you remove your gloves, your scarf, your coat, and walk in shirtsleeves through the warm sunshine. Below you is a sea of fog, bright white stretching from mountain to mountain, from the Cascades to the Olympics.

Tomorrow, Seattle will be reprieved. Tomorrow, a storm comes.

Think of Seattle. Think rain. Tomorrow.

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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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