More morning

Sometimes the strict length limit of my Morning Porch entries — 140 characters — just isn’t enough to say all I want to, and today was one of those times.

Few things are more wonderful than sitting in the darkness listening to the sound of rushing water. I’d been awake since 3:00, and after tossing and turning for a while, gave up on sleep, turned the light on, and grabbed a novel off the end table. Soon it was 5:30, and time for my morning ablutions. By 6:00 I was out on the porch with my coffee. My tired eyes slowly adjusted to the dark.

I’m not sure I’ve ever described the setting in detail. The porch is about 75 feet from the edge of the woods, which is on the far side of the driveway. Actually, my small front yard sits in a right-angled bend of the driveway, which also divides it from the spring house “lawn” off to the right (southwest) as one sits facing out. The front yard is man-made, consisting mainly of rock fill — probably rocks sledded off the field back in the mid-19th century — with only a thin layer of dirt on top. Back when we used to keep it mowed, the grass would turn yellow every July.

Except in high flood conditions, the water from the spring house and the drainage ditch coming down from the field all flows right underneath the yard, paralleling the porch, at a depth of four to five feet, presumably following what had been its original course before the fill was added. Another drainage ditch comes down along the edge of the woods opposite the spring house and goes into a large pipe under the bend of the driveway. It then winds around below a high bank on the eastern side of the yard and meets up with the water from the underground tributary about twenty feet from the porch: in front and to the left from where I sit. This is effectively the head of Plummer’s Hollow Run, since it’s the highest place with running water at the surface year ’round. The large, spreading butternut tree that used to stand at the edge of the yard grew on the bank right above this spring. I still mourn its demise.

Following the hard rains two days ago, there’s running water on all three sides of the porch, each with its own, distinctive tone cluster. The water from the springhouse makes a bass gurgle as it goes underground. The water in the drainage ditch at the edge of the woods trickles at a more baritone pitch, dropping into the pipe. The rushing sound comes mainly from my left — a lusty tenor and soprano section. I wish I had the equipment to make an adequate recording.

So I’m sitting there enjoying the non-lexical vocables of water after all those silent words going through my head. For once it’s the only sound — there’s no highway noise — until I hear the faint scrabbling of claws on bark. It’s the right time for a porcupine to be returning to its den under the house, so I assume that’s what it is, even though I can’t see any silhouette of one in the nearby trees. When the scrabbling turns into footfalls on leaves, it sounds too loud for anything smaller than a deer, but soon enough a round shadow detaches itself from the dark background of the lilac bush and comes waddling across the lawn. I can just make out the white-tipped mantle of quills. It squeezes under the porch, and I feel the vibrations in my chair as it bumps through the hole into the crawlspace under the house. A few more bumps and it’s still. It occurs to me suddenly that s/he, too, has probably been awake for the last few hours. And while I was reading a novel, the porcupine was up in a tree, chewing on the thin bark of branches, each of us consuming the forest in our own way.

7 Replies to “More morning”

  1. Next time I’m at at 3:oo, unableto go back to sleep and soon awaiting dawn, I’ll be thinking of you on your porch, and of that porcupine (though here it’s the skunk or the raccoon sneaking by).

  2. it must be late winter…the skunks are active too. You didn’t mention the cause of the silence, the freshly fallen snow. Top o’ the wintry morning to you!

  3. Dave-I’m a 4:00 riser (it’s a great time to work) and know that perfect silence of early mornings. The rushing water here is the sound of surf from the Gulf and we don’t have porcupines I’m sorry to say, but we do have dolphins and pelicans. Thanks for that description of your setting.

  4. I could live with the sound of surf — definitely! I used to be more regular about getting up at 4:30 or 5:00, but for the past six months or so I’ve been more erratic about when I get up… which is probably good for the Morning Porch feature, especially this time of year.

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