Friday, December 02, 2005

Sounds of a Winter Night

Farther up The Gorge, two feet of snow fell during the night, soundlessly while people slept. Here at the West End, rain clattered on my roof with a vengeance, overflowing the gutters and dripping down by my bedroom window. Above the storm, the sounds of urban life pierced the rain curtain. The faint jet roar of planes headed to PDX and the whirrrr of the Life Flight helicopter rescuing someone from a wreck on I-84. The pulsing chug of the freight train building up speed for the long climb up The Gorge and out to the High Desert. Underneath is the hum of snow tires on the freeway. A siren whines somewhere. A dog barks. Someone’s car alarm is triggered by the wind.

Inside, the dogs stir in their crates. Lenny sits on the couch by the window and emits his long dormant tom-cat call to the pretty female kitty next door. In the wee pre-dawn hours, the furnace kicks on despite the turned-down thermostat as the temperature falls toward freezing. The midnight arrival of Winter in Oregon invites sleepers to snuggle down under the covers and be thankful they are indoors and not sleeping in a doorway or under one of Portland’s many bridges. This is not a night to be homeless.

Before first light, the neighborhood begins to stir. The man next door slams his truck doors, goes back inside for something he forgot, slams them again, warms up the engine and finally his bright headlights flash across my ceiling as he pulls out and heads off. Down the street, another man has trouble starting his van, and the woman with the Mustang revs up her machine. More dogs are barking now and the traffic noises pick up in volume.

We’re awake and the sound of the coffee maker is both the last sound of the night and the first sound of the morning.


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