The still of the night

From my apartment in Lowell, I am surrounded by life from every direction. The city pulses with it—sounds of traffic, house sparrow and starling, revving engines, horns honking, sirens, people talking, people yelling, footsteps like elephants from the apartment above, footsteps in the stairwell, showers turning on and off—an entire ecosystem of its own. I live in the thick of a life of a different kind than I am accustomed to, but it is life nonetheless. I imagine myself sitting inside a throbbing boom box. At night, I have taken to using my eye-shades—purchased to help me sleep during long Alaska summer nights—ear plugs, and turning on a small fan to drown out the elephants above and music from the club across the canal.

This weekend I took refuge in Rockport, Maine—24 hours of quiet. I noticed it most keenly when I went to sleep on the familiar futon that creaks when you make the slightest movement. It is perfect for a creaky Maine home with wooden floorboards and windows that look out on the water.

I lay down on the futon and listened. Nothing. No sound. No light. Complete stillness. I don’t recall paying much attention to this detail during my last visit, but this time I breathed a sigh of relief. Dark skies above. Luxurious, natural quiet below.

There is irony of so many flavors in my move to the big city. I have long been gathering flotsam and jetsam from forest, stream, beach, and canyon. This entourage now follows me from one place to the next. I have endured much eye rolling for this pastime, but I can live with it. Sticks and stones, as they say.

On a daily stroll, I pick up many rocks and branches. I sense from some of these objects that they wish to travel. From others, I can feel that their desire to stay put. The former find a new home in my pocket, and the others I gently return before continuing on.

Now, here I sit surrounded by sounds of the city, and these rocks and branches help create a nature haven in a concrete jungle.

I don’t feel sad about my current location. Sure, there are moments when I think about my life with chickens in Washington or winnowing snipe in my backyard in Alaska. There are elements of who I am that must lay dormant for a time, but I am determined to find others that will thrive.

I take comfort in friends with creaking floorboards who make me pain perdu in the morning, and I find blessings in the warm welcome I feel from new faces in Lowell.

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