By Tom Ehrich

I don't think of myself as a timid person. But I have to admit that, since moving Upstate eight months ago, the sounds of country living still strike me as spooky.

The creaking of an old farmhouse, for example: is that a stranger posing danger or just old wood shifting with nighttime temps?

A sudden thud in the woods: is that an acorn falling, a deer browsing, a bear poking around, or nothing at all?

With no street noise outside my window -- noise I stopped hearing in Manhattan -- every clunk of cubes in the icemaker reverberates. So does the furnace kicking in. So does wind blowing over the chimney top.

What needs to happen is for my senses to recognize these new sounds and my mind to sort out normal and abnormal. That will take time. I didn't sleep well for the first week I lived in a Manhattan apartment. Same with my move to Ipswich Bay in Massachusetts, when my world suddenly filled with buoy bells, lobster boats making their morning rounds, and storms ranging from mild to hurricane.

When I hear a strange noise, I try to figure it out. At 1:30 this morning, for instance, I made my way downstairs to check out a sound that suggested furniture being moved. It was nothing, of course, so now I can file away that sound as okay.

Will I ever get to the point of leaving my doors unlocked, as many country people do? Hard to say. But I know I have come a long way from the night I slept alone here for the first time a summer ago. Outside my open windows, the noise of animals walking by and leaves blowing in trees was so loud that I imagined a zombie invasion. That day is past. Other nighttime sounds will lose their impact in due time.

I watch my almost-two granddaughter deal with the scrapes and falls and new skills and new people of life. It takes enormous courage to grow up. I admire the way she picks herself up and tries again. Inner peace and maturity won't come from being spared wounds and failures, or spooky sounds, but from learning they are normal and not a deterrent to living.

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