Night from the inside (6)

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Night from the Inside

 

Living here for 50 years in a bend of the railroad’s main line through Pennsylvania, I couldn’t help but become an aficionado of train horns. As they age they grow in dissonance, till they’re making chords straight out of Schoenberg.

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cold twilight
fragments
of a distant ball game

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night valley
the unadorned darkness
of Amish farms

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What I thought at first were stars reflected in the forest pool’s nearly still surface turn out, when I look up, to be satellites — a long line of them, easily visible through the half-grown leaves as they file soundlessly overhead. This has the name, I recall, of an almost bird: Starlink. Creepy and unnerving as hell. I guess we should be grateful they don’t spell out DRINK COKE or something, but the long-term plan is even worse: to outnumber the visible stars in the night sky. All so one multinational corporation, SpaceX, can have a monopoly on rural broadband service. I’m reminded of Robinson Jeffers’ misanthropic quote: “Man would shit on the morning star if he could reach it.”

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I love the startled barks of raccoons. Even when my presence is the occasion for it.

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A small outbreak of fireworks down the valley: a local clusterfuck.

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Out in the woods at night, it’s hard to shake the impression that I’m surrounded by tribespeople — I mean the trees. They act as if they own the place. You can see it in their posture, their habit of rarely bowing, their standoffishness. However often we cut them down they keep coming back, as best they can, to this same backward place, clannish, profligate. Prone to annual revivals that quickly devolve into orgies, pollen flying everywhere. Full of exotic music from all the nomads they take in.

*

My brother Mark’s nocturnal audio recordings show that field sparrows, a supposedly diurnal species, are the most regular nighttime songsters. I wonder if being a light sleeper confers evolutionary advantage to a dweller in open spaces? Mark wrote,

A field sparrow or field sparrows called 42 times on the night of May 14-15, after dusk and dawn choruses were over, over the course of 7hr45min. So that works out to about once every 11 min. I believe it was more than one bird, given the differing volumes–assuming they weren’t flying around.

Other diurnal birds singing at night I’ve encountered so far are the [yellow-billed and black-billed] cuckoos, an apparent chipping sparrow, catbird, and a common yellowthroat.

*

I’m sitting in the ridgetop forest listening to a dog or coyote in the valley, yipping and howling to the accompaniment of the high school marching band.

The howls are getting closer, the band more distant.

It is almost fully dark, I’m a mile from home, and I’ve just had my second Covid shot.

OK, no, I must be listening to an outdoor rock or country concert. The howls aren’t canine but human, sounding multi vocal when the audience joins in. I can almost make out the melody line.

It’s like I’m in the world’s darkest, deadest bar with a dying jukebox just out of sight around the corner.

But doubtless this is something the town leaders have dreamed up to get people outside and lift their spirits. I’m glad.

And I’m glad that it’s now over, climaxing in a frenzy of colored spotlights. Silence and darkness descend like benedictions from the great velvet Elvis above the bar.

without my glasses
the shapeliness
of night

*

A genuinely blood-curdling cry from the other side of the spruce grove. It spooked a couple of deer, who just ran past me.

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nightcrawler
s t r e t c h i n g
into the woods

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The crescent moon is the best moon: more stylish than the full moon, and available for moongazers and performers of dark rites twice a month rather than just once. Plus it doesn’t nearly eradicate the darkness as the full moon does.

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In one dream I am hunted — or haunted? — by the Polaroid of a fish.

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moonlit forest
the sudden crack and roar
of a falling tree

the mouse keeps on
nosing about

Fifteen minutes later, another tree crashes down, twice as close. I take the hint and get out.

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first field cricket
through the open window
half a moon

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Fifteen minutes past sunset, coyotes strike up a chorus not far from where I sit, on the appropriately named Coyote Bench. They start out sounding plausibly dog-like, but the yipping and wolf-like howling quickly give them away. Like all music that resonates down deep, this is part moan, part jubilation. Closing in on prey, and close to prayer:

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First firefly blinking through the half-grown black walnut leaves, all alone going here… here… here…

Rainbow colors in the clouds around the moon — a reminder that even on a sultry evening, ice is less than ten miles away.

Series Navigation← Night from the inside (5)

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