Monday, October 6, 2014


When I lived in the city, I awoke to the hum of the freeway most mornings.  If the city is like a body, the freeway is its circulatory system.  As it rises and and gets moving, the freeway-body responds with increased circulation, which is a kind of whooshing sound that grows louder and more urgent closer it gets to rush hour.  

If I was up really early (or came home very late), I'd see the newspaper delivery truck making its way down the street, throwing the LA Times into the lobbies of all the apartment buildings, just as dawn was breaking behind the skyscrapers to the east. Sometimes the mostly-nocturnal garbage trucks would still be finishing up their rounds and could be heard rattling their way home along the boulevard, fighting for space with the produce delivery trucks, which were outside the restaurants, blinkers on, delivering fresh goods for the day.  There would even be the occasional jangling of a dog leash as some early-riser took their Fido down the sidewalk to a postage stamp-sized patch of dirt near the corner, to do his or her business.

These were sounds that called you to alert, to action, as you dressed, gulped down some coffee and became part of the teeming masses headed into offices in order to Make Things Run, as the sun rose higher and the air warmed.  It was exciting to feel like a part of the machine, but for all the pavement I pounded in my business suit and Reeboks trainers, another life called to me, and after a time I left the city I had grown up in and headed into the suburbs.

The suburbs are different. The noise of the freeway, so much a pulse of the morning in the city, is a dim hum out there.  But at dawn and just after it, there are cars starting all up and down the street and the sounds of children clambering into them and being hauled off to day care or school, with cereal bars or sippy cups clutched in their moist hands. And there are the sounds of morning radio, blaring from the front seat of the same cars, where their parents clutch their own beverage cups and check their briefcases before heading out on their morning missions -- drop off the kids, head into work. 

If you wait another hour or so after that, the suburbs then begin to fill with the sound of the old gardening trucks and their clanky trailers, driven by the Mexican gardeners from  the "other part of town," who will arrive faithfully in the morning and finish their work before the day's heat gets too brutal.  With them come the sounds of lawns being mowed, bushes being clipped, and the ever-present whine of motorized leaf blowers cleaning off the sidewalks when they are done.  Sometimes there are mothers with infants, taking morning walks and pushing strollers along the sidewalks while talking into their cell phones. Sometimes there is birdsong. But most of the time the streets -- and the houses that sit on them -- are empty.

Now I live in the country, and here the sounds are completely predictable, and exactly the same on any morning of the week, whether it's Sunday morning or a Wednesday or a Saturday.  If you are up early enough, you will get to hear the last of the yip-yip-yip coyote songs, as the packs wind down their nights and retreat back into their dens. But more often the day here usually begins with the song of the brown thrasher, who nests in the bushes outside our bedroom window.  He also starts his song well before sunup, beginning just about the time the coyotes are winding down.  

But since he's so early, it's actually possible to roll over and catch another hour of sleep before the rest of the dawn chorus starts up, singing as they begin making their way down from the trees to start their day.  The roosters on all the other farms around us crow to greet the day, and all manner of animals can be heard calling out as their owners push wheelbarrows full with their morning rations towards their pastures and stalls - cow, sheep, goat and horse.

It's not a rush hour as much as a routine; everyone makes their own noises, everyone eats, and then everyone goes about their day. 

After about 9 a.m., the only sounds are birdsong, and the occasional call of the hawk or eagle floating high overhead.  But mostly, it's silent. Silence.  Such a strange concept after all those years of cities and suburbs.

I have lived through many mornings, in many places and in many parts the world.  Sure, I have my preferences, but I can also see the beauty and unique hope held within the mornings of all these places where I've called home and where I've stumbled out of bed and to the coffee pot.  

Every one of these places has its own symphony, and you need only be mindful to see the beauty in all of them.

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