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Posted: April 15, 2010 3:23 p.m.

The sounds of town

On these blessedly cool spring mornings, we throw open the windows to capture the crispness before the beaming sun begins its rise toward noonday and the beginning of stuffily hot afternoons.

To be sure, no one here is grumbling about the weather or temperatures: wet, dry, hot, cold, no matter. God has humbled us in recent years through record-setting heat, earth-cracking drought, drowning rains without end and the longest cold spell in memory of oldsters around town. He gives, and through it all, we have learned that to everything there is a season — I’ve read that somewhere — and what seems unbearable will, in time, be just a memory.

With windows ajar, the sounds of crowds of soon-to-be nesting birds and their merry morning wake-up melodies fill the house. Lulled into peacefulness over a cup of my favorite strong coffee one recent day, I bolted upright when a huge boom thundered somewhere near. In, say, Detroit, I might have ducked for cover, thinking it was gunfire, but in Covington, I think not. I surmised a transformer malfunction and knew the city trucks would soon be at work on the problem.

We did not lose power, but soon, out on my morning walk, I found that homes along Floyd Street were without it, thanks to an exchange with Billy Travis. I saw him across the street, striding purposefully toward the curb, swinging an obviously dead squirrel by the tail. He tossed it close to the curb where it landed with a thump, and I winced at the specter. Then he called out, "Power’s out. Squirrel was sitting on the line." Sorry, squirrel. Thanks for the information, Billy.

The sounds of living in town contrast decidedly with the sounds of the country when we lived beside a gurgling creek before moving here a few years ago. Only singing, chirping birds in early spring and the rolling choruses of cicadas in late spring broke the silence. We were far enough off the road and sheltered in a natural cove so that we never heard the traffic on nearby Highway 11.

It was bliss, but so are the sounds of this town because they remind us 24 hours a day of community and the ebb and flow of life in a small town, relatively speaking.

That is what we sought in making the move from country fields to a small city lot: a sense of community and neighbors. In those first days and months in town, we were intrigued by the sounds of an urban rooster crowing somewhere nearby. He didn’t last long, a runaway or a Sunday lunch perhaps. Also nearby was an unruly pack of miniature dachshunds that often disturbed the well-regarded practice of back porch sitting until a tactfully written note to their owners produced a little quiet. Finally, they and their owners moved.

What remains of the sounds of town — and community — are these: The roar of motorcycles when owners feel the first warm day on their backs and the open road calls. The wince-inducing wail of EMS trucks on Floyd Street. The thunder and scream of the CSX trains barreling through town at daybreak, late night and sometime around 2 a.m., terrorizing those trying to sleep in North Covington. School buses lumbering up Williams Street and Anderson Avenue hauling their charges to Ficquett, once my own elementary school. Hymns from church bells at noon. On sleepless nights, I can gauge the oncoming dawn by the growing drone of traffic on 278 and determine whether it’s worth it to try to get back to sleep — before some optimistic robin begins to herald the new day.

Sounds in town declare the interconnectedness of all life and the living. Daily they remind me of community and all that is shared in this time and place.

Barbara Morgan is advisory board chair of the Newton Fund of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and a resident of Covington. Her columns appear every other Friday.

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