By Sandy Compton
When we were children, we played an odd summertime game. We’d sit in the front yard of my grandparents’ trailer house/cabin within view of the highway, pick a color and keep track of how many cars and trucks of our color drove by. It was purely a time-waster, but it beats cable or dish or the internet or however you get your world fed to you.
It’s already been mentioned that I think television as it is used in the world today is the largest waste of time and brainpower since bread and circuses were made popular by Roman emperors. Just turn the damned thing off, OK? Ninety-five percent of television—I’m being kind—is tripe, pure and simple. Including professional sports—except, of course, baseball and football, which I LOVE. Just confessing now, so if you see me staring at a screen in MickDuffs, you can’t say you didn’t know.
We’re all susceptible to the lure of popular media, me included. But I think we would be better off if we turned it off and sat in the front yard and counted our color of cars going by on the road.
We sat with family and friends, so there was interchange between humans; sometimes somewhat superficial, I admit, but also real. The only thing between us was evening air, and often, the only thing we could hear between cars—besides our own voices—was crickets.
Crickets are a summer sound. They mark time in the dying light of long July and August days and then, goddamit, September, when their song slows and makes me wish time to follow suit. October crickets can make me cry. Crickets are the rhythm of a season, lower cleft in cadence, but sung in tenor.
There is a rural legend that if you count the cricks in a minute, the answer will be the temperature. In Fahrenheit. So, 6 cricks is . . . let me see. Oh, yeah, a hibernating cricket.
OK. So my math bone isn’t working tonight. Fine.
If you listen to the crickets long enough, as your eyes will adjust to dim light, your ears adjust to what is first perceived as the silence between cricks. Sounds below come to the aural surface. A tiny breeze moving through the trees. A train whistling for a crossing way up the river. The distant hum of turbines turning in the dam downstream, powering up Spokane and Portland with the strength of my river. The rustle of a house wren settling onto its eggs for the night. Even, on extra-quiet nights, the sound of that river passing by.
What has this to do with real life, you might wonder. This, maybe: for about 3.9999 million years of human existence, there were no trains or turbines to listen to, much less cars. But there was the breeze. And wrens. And the river flowing by. And crickets. Real life was not invented in the last .0001 million years. Real life was here long before the internal combustion machine was invented. Or electricity was harnessed. Or trains began rumbling across the continent.
When you are sitting in your yard and the only sound you notice is the sound of a cricket—and possibly the sound of an approaching car you hope is your color—life is good. Really good. I don’t think it can be better. There’s no rush to go anywhere, do anything, be anybody. You can just be yourself for a while, and let the rhythm of your immediate world keep cadence with a tiny critter that sings by rubbing its back legs together.
Sandy Compton’s new book, “The Scenic Route: Life on the road between Hope and Paradise,” is available at Vanderford’s Books, 201 Cedar in Sandpoint. Go and buy it already!