Earthworms’ Castings: Night Sounds, Summer into Fall

By Jean Ponzi

Remember the sounds of your childhood? Search your audio memory and find the time before “central air” shut our species into white noise boxes as soon as summer weather broke a sweat.

How can I sleep enclosed in a machine-sound room? Short stays in summer conference hotels are as long as I can ever stand to miss the warm season night sounds I love.

Motifs of weather music play around our city yard. The trees announce an approaching storm: rippling leaf rustle swells into billowy waves as our locust, tulip poplar and sycamore neighbors chant along with stormy winds. Then the first flutter and rush of raindrops sprays their patter, splat (and cooling scent) through our open windows.

The rhythm of night rain refreshes even my most hectic mind. Falling asleep in a rainstorm sends me into deepest restful spaces.

Years ago, I stayed one night in the cabin a friend had built herself, in a forest clearing in Vermont. Frogs were singing in a pond on the edge of that property’s woods. Loud frogs, in all voices, from trilling soprano tree frogs to amphibious masses sounding their creaky creek bed antiphons to basso profundo galumphing bullfrog calls, dotted all around the pond banks. I remember I was extra tired that night from hours of Green Mountain hiking, but I stayed awake, aware, afloat in that raucous pool of splendid summer sound.

What my family called Zing Bugs dominate the soundscape of high summer. Their relentless sawing songs remind me of childhood August nights, reading by flashlight, too hot to sleep, eventually drifting off on the rise and fall of cicada crescendos.

Then come crickets, the last of summer’s serenaders. One year, anticipating first frost, I stayed awake far into the night absorbing what I thought was surely a final chirping chorus. Next night I padded into the bedroom, prepared to bear a sad silence . . . and in through our windows rattled raspy ditties, played by still limber cricket legs. Nature’s music is resilient!

Try keeping your windows open, without the AC. Tune in to a night of natural sound. Tone down your body’s temperature in a cool shower. Stretch out on smooth sheets under the breeze of your ceiling fan. Let yourself feel comfortable in an uncontrolled climate.

And let the night sounds send you into sweet dreams.

Jean Ponzi brings you Earthworms’ Environmental Conversations, podcasting from KDHX St. Louis Independent Media. Pick ‘em up at www.kdhx.org.