It is only quiet if I don’t listen. In the early morning, just before light saturates the air around you and distracts you, you can hear the hum. I call it the hum of the universe, but it is only the sounds of tires on asphalt all around the city — even on the interstates, which are too far away to see. There are a few more obvious sounds —the fog horn of a ship heading into the Bay never far away and sometimes jets above the fog. There is the strange, otherworldly whine of the electric busses when they come near and before they go away and fade back into the hum. The hum, though, is not intrusive. I hear it only when I want to. I’ve adjusted to urban quiet.
Though I often sleep through it, I love this time in the morning. The wind hasn’t come up yet and no matter the temperature, I am warm enough and can breathe easily. There is a freshness to the air as if the night cleansed it.
But clutter invades. Personal clutter. I have a small apartment and I’m usually working on half a dozen projects at the same time. Papers are stacked on papers. In the kitchen, a few skillets are out because there is no place to put them and I’ve gathered several lethargic orchids. They were beautiful years ago and I’ve repotted, watered and fed them. They live, but they do not bloom. I can’t bring myself to toss them.
There are books everywhere. I’ve sold a few to a local used bookseller. I plan — the key here is the word “plan” — to box a bunch up and give them to Friends of the Library for a sale to benefit one of the most important of public places. There are also a bunch of books I know I will never read again, but cannot bring myself to part with.
I have a small monkey collection (not real ones) and a not particularly valuable (except to me) collection of art. There is limited room on my walls, most of which is taken.
In a storeroom in the garage I have boxes and boxes of photographs. I’ve taken a fair amount of them. I’ve been through a large suitcase full of photographs I have tried to sort and thin out probably two or three dozen times in the last 30 years. I’ve thrown away maybe half a dozen. Some of the photographs have been handed down through the generations. There are few tintypes among them. Some of them are of people I don’t know. I’ve been bringing them upstairs for a project I’m working on. Many of them are stacked here and there.
My older brother likes to warn younger people about what happens when people grow older. You know, things to expect. No doubt one of those warnings must be there is likely to be an increased tendency and perhaps even a requirement to hoard.
There are not enough files for my so-called financial records. There is a stack, growing like a wild fungus of medical and medical insurance papers. There are wills and operating manuals for cameras, telephones, computers and printers. There are dozens and dozens of notebooks, little pocket-sized books that serve as places to capture ideas as well as phone numbers and grocery lists. Under my desk are plastic containers filled with drafts of novels and copies of the novels themselves. More are downstairs. I also have a small magazine collection, another box of every publication I’ve edited or contributed to, a dozen or so miniature (read toy) cars and old cameras. There are stationery supplies. Hidden away are drawers with old watches and a dozen sunglasses, though I never wear sunglasses. Neither the sunglasses nor the watches are antiques. Just old watches and, oh, probably 30 pairs of reading glasses no longer strong enough for me to use. I also have many pens. Some are fountain pens, which I love, but never use.
On my desk are notes for and drafts of novellas as well as material for one web site and two blogs. There are three unpublished novels. It’s so great to live in a paperless society.
Unfortunately I have only one, small closet. Therefore it is hard to keep clothing from creeping out of the little space and hanging around doorknobs and over a few boxes of those books I mentioned.
There is noise clutter too. Street cleaners, trash trucks, arguments, the neighbors’ television sets, another neighbor’s Harley and the skateboarders who have taken a liking to the hill I live on. Still another neighbor has a dog who barks for at least half an hour every morning at eight. I suspect it’s when the inhabitants go off to work and leave him alone in the house. I suspect they don’t know it is his habit. Once a week a leaf blower adds to the symphony of bad noise and there is, periodically but lasting a long time, house renovation. Precisely at noon every Tuesday, there is a very loud horn, followed by an unintelligible voice explaining why, I suspect, there is a very loud horn blowing.
It’s endless and tiresome. I didn’t used to like being up at three or four in the morning. It seemed uncivilized; but in the darkness and the quiet, there is a lovely calm, a pleasant hum. It may be one of the reasons why old people get up early.