I grew up in the country in a home set back off the road and nestled among tall trees. I was accustomed to running barefoot along worn dirt pathways through the woods surrounding our home, with only the sounds of birds and squirrels rustling in the green canopy overhead. Occasionally, the stillness would be interrupted by the distant crack of a hunter’s gun or a zealous driver taking advantage of the open road. But mainly, my childhood was filled with the calm, hushed sounds of nature.
Up through my early teens, I would go visit my grandma and grandpa every summer, sometimes for a week at a time. They only lived about thirty miles away from us, but for all I knew, it could’ve been half a world away. Grandma and Grandpa’s house was full of more intense noises, and ironically, some of my most treasured childhood memories are centered around those sounds.
My grandparents lived along a busy stretch of highway 50 in southern Indiana. At night, sounds from the traffic would drift in, carried on the warm summer breeze and fanned by billowy curtains that hung from the open window over the bed where I slept. On the first night of each of my visits, I would lie awake for what seemed like hours. I found it difficult to sleep with the unfamiliar sounds of cars and trucks buzzing by to destinations unknown.
By the second night, I’d become reacquainted with the highway sounds and sleep would come easier. I’d even welcome the soothing hum of the night-time traffic. Subsequent nights would bring a certain acclimation, a knowledge of the difference in pitch and tone between passenger cars and trucks and the big eighteen-wheelers that traveled that two-lane highway. Once in a while I would be rewarded with a long, droning honk from a passing semi, and it would seem, to my young, imaginative mind, that it was meant just for me. A special message, a whispered ‘good-night’ in the darkness.