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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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