Back to the lovely sound of basics!

Look what I found on my walk this week! With the enthusiasm of a rare bird sighting, I rounded the corner and saw my neighbor tidying up her small patch of grass with the gentle clickity click of manual mowing. The silence, or nearly so, was music to my ears. I love you, Pat! The last time I saw this was when my own dad had no other choice, somewhere in the 1950’s.


The decibels I live with often seem intolerable. But like everyone else, I’ve gotten used to the everyday din of traffic, crowds, electronics, and machinery. I rarely even notice anymore the trains that pass close to my house, and mostly sleep through the blast of their horns at 3 a.m. (I wish I could say the same for barking dogs.) The trouble is these mild annoyances can eventually lead to the extreme ringing in your ears of Tinnitis. And there is no cure for this. The damage is done.

Last year I bought a fancy new vacuum cleaner, for the good of my carpets and my own health. I was wrong. Getting every speck of dust just isn’t worth the price of my hearing. The noise it produced— think jet engine—sent me to the gun shop for my very first pair of heavy duty ear protectors. I am an amusing sight, though, even to myself.

There’s a chapter titled “Quiet” in my book, A Patchwork of Comforts. “Total silence is rare unless you live in big country like Montana, where you can hear squirrels chew. Listening to the rustle of trees or the whir of a hummer’s wings is foreign to those of us who live in LA or New York City… When we finally find it on the weekend, the silence makes us want to whisper, as if daring to break it will alert some librarian somewhere to shush us.” As you can see, noise has been on my mind for a long time.

With the spring sun comes mowers and blowers. I especially curse the blowers and feel like adding my own bit of noise by SCREAMING! Give me the silence of a rake or the swish of a broom any day.

Leaves rustling 10 decibels
Whisper 20
Conversation 60
Noisy restaurant 85
Power lawn mower 90
Leaf blower 115
Sports crowd 130
Fireworks 140

I know someone who can’t stand the hum of her own fridge and keeps it in the garage. The inconvenience keeps me from following suit, but can’t say I’ve never been tempted!