Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crickets, or why I love Virginia

One evening right before I left with Sabina on my second and last cross-country cat-couriering trip from the Bay Area to Virginia, Justin and I went to visit our friend Jove's dad and stepmother in San Francisco. They live in a very nice rent-controlled apartment they've occupied for several decades (ergo: affordable!) right on the Hyde cable line. When the windows were open (which they were, a little, even in December, San Francisco being ever-moderate), we could hear the clack-clack of the cables under the street. And I realized for the first time that, under different circumstances, I might have loved the Bay Area, if an omnipresent sound like that had seeped into my ears.

It's that way, here, with the crickets at night. I love crickets. I had heard crickets, of course, before I first visited the East Coast, but it wasn't until I spent a couple of weeks on Long Island the summer I turned 17 that I realized how bugs are a pervasive part of eastern summers. Crickets chirp tentatively in the spring, then go full-bore in the summer, accompanied by cicadas that sound, to me, like sprinklers; in the autumn they decline, again, but when the winters are mild a few brave crickets persist into December here in the shallow south. I love nights with crickets, because they feel lush and remind me of my very earliest days in Virginia, when I was still getting used to the humidity and afternoon thunderstorms and aggressive kudzu.

Seattle has its own sensory enchantments, but what strikes me about nights in suburban places like my parents' houses is the silence. But I remember sitting up nights the few months I lived at my grandparents' house above Sand Point Way, when the cars going by on the street below made rhythmic clunk-clunk noises on the asphalt, and very occasionally you could hear the wind moving the soundgarden down at NOAA, or the soft patting of cats' paws on the lawn.

The crickets are what I missed in Berkeley. There are all sorts of good things there, but everything that strikes the senses is measured: the weather, the sounds, the smells, are the same, more or less, year round, and aside from perpetually blooming gardens, everything is restrained. Here, summer bursts forth in all its muggy, fertile, earthy goodness, demanding attention in a way beautiful but modest western summers don't have the gall to do.

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