A “city girl” friend of mine asked me to describe what it was like at night in the country
Gently the moon drifts above the trees to the east. It being a few days from a full moon, the orange/white heavenly body is ever so slightly elliptical. With the beaming radiance of a God like being, it cast’s it magical light downward on the earth’s waiting surface. Off in the far distance to the north by northeast, the sky seems ablaze from the lights of another megalopolis of businesses, shops, factories, homes and streetlights. As a soft ground fog rises slowly from the surrounding forested areas it causes a hazy, mellowed appearance to the trees and underbrush. It is as if ghost-like creatures are coming alive, dancing between the timbered beings that inhabit the woods. Patches of fog drift lazily across a meadow as if a shadowy being is in search of it’s
victim target. The feelings border on the surreal, emotions running rampant thanks to many a Hollywood thriller where in the shadows evil does lurk. But there lurks no evil here, well none it is at least hoped.
Other then the glowing city lights northward and the rising moon just clearing the tree tops, the night sky is dark, no light, devoid of illumination, or so seems. However, in reality, there exists a great deal of night light. As eyes adjust from inside a well lit building to the night scene outside, the sky becomes alive with dancing stars in the distant heavens. While the darkness might seem so barren, the difference could be compared to a plate of food vs an overloaded buffet. The day contains much more light then is needed – an excess – like the buffet, more then you need, more then you can use and more then you will consume. While some nights are darker then others, rarely is dark, actually, dark.
The same sky viewed from a cityscape with street and building lights adding to the overall picture will subdue many but the very brightest of the stars and even planets in the our solar system will be unlocatable. Remove the artificial lights from surroundings and suddenly, magically many more miniature lights come into focus overhead. The brighter the moon as it rises above the horizon, the fewer the stars it is possible to enjoy however there is more light on the local landscape. Yes, there is light at night.
As eyes are justing to the visual quietness now being experienced, ears are also adjusting to the audio void. Gone are blaring radios, TV commercials harking their wares, the clammer and commotion of busy streets with polluting cars clogging their passages. As the quiet settles inside ears, it becomes almost painfully devoid of audible provocations. However uncomfortable it may initially appear to a visitor from “the city”, when the ears adjust and, if listening with earnest, the night sounds come alive. Previously unheard, or at least unnoticed, the wind blowing through the trees at the edge of the clearing creates a gentle brushing sound that is neither persistent nor consistent. When listening intently, both the loudness level and the tonal qualities of the clashing of leaves upon leaves is ever changing. Reminiscent of yet unlike the sounds of waves crashing ashore at the waters edge. The bristling sounds can relax the body with the soothing harmony of nature at it’s best.
From the distance a howl from a coyote drifts across the wilderness. Lonesome it does sound, the appearance being that the animal is in distress, crying for assistance, begging for rescue. But it is not. It starts as a yip. Then a yip-yip. Next a crescendo of sounds that causes skin to bristle as the sound resembles an almost maniacal and malicious laughter. Nearby a neighbor’s dog reacts to the distant, physically and biologically, cousin by returning the howl. The coyote’s howl servers survival purposes, while the domesticated hound’s howl is more natures reaction. They both can signal the same purpose – this is territory under my control, trespassing not permitted. They can also be a call to summon others out of loneliness. The coyote desiring to re-assemble their pack; the neighbor’s dog: come out and play or let me in. Each howl, while sounding the same, actually forms a sentence in canine words. A sentence humans can not decode. The words are well known and understood by the coyote, the dog and the wolf, all related and all capable of communicating with others. Although the languages may not be exact, just as humans of diverse origins can communicate through vocal expressions, these long-ago separated descendants can infer their meanings clearly and, at times, rather loudly.
Almost if echoing the howling, in the faraway night, a train’s whistle shrills through the air. The notes of the air horn produced music transverses from afar, quite near it could appear if not for the fact that it is so low in volume that normal speech may have covered it, rending it unheard. But heard it is and, as ears become additionally adapt at pulling out the slighted sounds, there exist to the south the steady murmur of cars and trucks on the highway 2 miles removed from present location. The traffic on the roadway, being much less congested then city routes, is broken up and sporadic. The uneven sound gently massages the ears and heightens the ability to pick up other, more diminished aural aesthesis.
Off to the woods to the west, an Owl announces it’s presence with a series of hoots. Operating at night, the owl’s announcement is both a statement of presence and a declaration of ability. It may be a calling to a mate or a certification of territory. But the hoots also serves as a warning to those in the animal kingdom that make up the downward food chain: tread carefully for tonight might be your last. While normally, an Owl on the hunt does not announce it, the fact that the Owl did vocalize it’s presence warns others that a hunter is in the area. Go on about your business but move with caution, for few creatures in the wild will ignore an easy meal.
Another sense that becomes more acutely sensitive are those of the nose. No longer driven into submission by the pollution and abundance of odorous sources conveniently clustered while in urban settings, the clean, truly clean, air available in the country can be refreshingly boring. But just as ears adjust to pick up the sensitive of noises and the eyes open wide to specter of the night’s brilliantness, the chemoreceptor too responds to the scantiest of odors. From the far northwest drifts the ever so slight smell of a nearby dairy farm. Offensive as it might be when near by, at this distance it merely blends with other organic smells to create a curios bouquet. The acidly smell of burnt wood drifting on the gentle breeze indicates an adobe with a fire burning in their fireplace. The marshy sweat smell of wet moss and underbrush add to the mixture of uniquely country aromas that find their way into the sensory system.
When in the country, the body’s sensory system is tickled in an dissimilar manner then the frontal assault that occurs with in the boundaries of urban congestion. Be it visually, audibly or by odor, the country which may seem so barren and void of presence is actually very alive and extremely vibrant with activity and the sights, smells and sounds of nature at it’s best.