Week Three in the Mountains: Things That Go Grrr in the Night…and in the Daytime

So in my last installment of life at the Sanctuary, I wrote about how wonderful it is to no longer have to worry about noises from neighbors bothering me or my terrible singing bothering them. All the noise pollution of city life is a thing of the past. But that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of noises up here. Plenty of scary, misleading buzzes, grunts, rumbles, and knocks. Insects, gusts of wind, and birds masquerading as wild beasts beating and clawing at the door. And the coffee maker. You’d be surprised at how easily, with the right acoustics, coffee brewing in the same coffee maker you’ve had for years can be mistaken for the grumblings of a ravenous, evil, monster in the woods.

The gastro-intestinal workings of my animals are the worst offenders. Allie Brosh’s dogs best exemplify what happens to my dog each time we move, which is unfortunate for him because we’ve moved six times since I adopted him. You would think by now he would have figured out it’s all going to be OK, but I guess dogs aren’t known for their reasoning skills. Well, there he was one night shortly after we moved in, suffering the ill effects of his anxiety while I sat above on the back deck. Dusk had fallen and while Trotsky was still visible, the depths of the woods behind him were not.  And suddenly, there it was. A low grumbling. Not even a few days in and a bear was about to come roaring out of the woods to devour my dog, diarrhea and all. I yelled for Trotsky to run toward me but the only response I got was the half-embarrassed, half-annoyed look that all dogs give you when they are hunched up, paws together, butt out, taking care of business and they see that you are watching them. And that’s when I realized that the terrible bear growl was just Trotsky’s drawn-out fart.

And then it was the cat’s turn. I didn’t mistake the noise of his internal processes for a bear growling, but for something potentially as sinister. In his exploratory missions around the property, Hector has been consuming a lot of vegetation that hasn’t sat very well with his stomach. I’ve seen the after effects of his retching before, but I’ve never heard it in real time until last week. I was sitting in the living room working when I heard a toddler. A live, human toddler cooing and burbling and trying to articulate some thoughts about pacifiers or a full diaper. I froze. The voice continued and my heart began to pound more audibly than the unnamed narrator’s did in The Tell-Tale Heart. Despite having worked as a ghost tour guide in Gettysburg, PA, I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve also never rejected the possibility that they exist. And when the voice stopped and the rhythmic knocking began—BANG BANG BANG—a scream started rising up in my throat. And then it stopped. Silence. After a moment, I ventured into the other room uncertain of what apparition I would find. The apparition turned out to be large pile of grass-filled vomit. Even with the mysterious noises explained away by the empirical evidence of a normal bodily process, I needed some time before I could relax again. I mean, really, is this how all cats sound when they puke? That can’t be normal.

The cat has since stopped eating everything green in his path. Mostly because he stopped trying to bum rush the door every time we open it after he snuck out one night and unwillingly spent the entire night under the porch steps in a rainstorm. The dog still wanders freely around and I still sometimes run outside barefoot in a panic screaming his name when I hear a crying dog, who is probably miles and miles across the canyon. Each time I make a fool of myself like this, Trotsky comes trotting around the corner, unharmed, tongue out, tail wagging, oblivious to the cause of my distress.

But sounds move strangely around here. Trucks that sound as if they are about to come barreling around a switchback at any moment never appear, likely because they are several hills over. The doorbell sends me jumping out of my skin because somehow I never heard the FedEx truck come rumbling up the long drive. And brewing coffee sounds like a bear. A real bear? I’m guessing when the day comes that there finally is one grunting and rummaging around in my kitchen, I’ll just think it’s a distant neighbor’s weed wacker or dry branches snapping off tree. I’d better just keep the doors shut.

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