Living with the white noise of neighborhood life
I was sitting out on the patio earlier this afternoon enjoying my lunch. I love to sit out of doors and breathe the fresh air. And I’m hoping and praying that there are no wildfires this year to poison the air and force us to spend the summer indoors. Just saying. I enjoy watching the birds, butterflies and wildlife [squirrels] that come and go.
I enjoy tending my growing flower garden and wondering when my mister is going to mow the bit of lawn over by the hanging tree. We call it that because it is an old dead tree that somebody once upon a time had afixed a hefty iron hanging pot apparatus on. It has hooks for six pots. We’re using four this year: two for fuchsias, one for petunias and one for a mix of wildflowers. I’m hoping that as spring merges into summer it will attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Well, anyway, here I was today enjoying a lunch of leftover chicken and cheese taquitos, a deviled egg — instead of mixing in mayo with the yolk I used spinach/artichoke/parmesan dip and let me tell you, yum! — a slice of my favorite cheese, applewood smoked gruyere cheese, and some potato chips. And juice. And water. Not that any of this is important but it added to the enjoyment of the day. The weather was cooperating, not yet 80 degrees so it hadn’t yet driven me indoors. I’ve reached an age now when my tolerance for heat has waned. It gets to be 82 and I’m done for. Sad, I know. I can clearly remember the days of my youth when playing outdoors in 100 degree heat was nothing. Not anymore.
The thing to know is that my mister and I live in a typical middle American neighborhood. Our community is a small city [or large town with a university] in the western United States. The neighborhoods are arranged along streets and avenues with houses on small lots, divided by fences. There are sections of the town that have some large homes, but most neighborhoods are like mine.
My home sits on a small lot surrounded by fences and other homes. The neighborhoods in this part of town are older which means they have large established trees. There is a really tall pecan tree on one side of our house and a really tall sweet gum on the other. The front yard has a really large magnolia. The trees in the neighborhood are diverse in variety and provide shade and homes to the birds and squirrels.
Our home fronts on a small road. Behind our house is another house [with fencing dividing the properties of course] and fronting that house is a busy street. It is a minor artery for this part of town that allows folks to get to a major artery that leads to the freeway. The importance of this is the street noise. Sitting on my patio means that I am constantly serenaded by the noise of the traffic flowing on the road that fronts the over-the-fence neighbor. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s like a background white noise now. Kind of like surf, I guess, if you lived near the ocean.
What I noticed this morning was that the white noise of the traffic doesn’t seem to bother the squirrels or the birds. They just go about their business. This morning I watched as a squirrel ran along the fence. Every now and again it would stop and slap the wood — trying to scare me away I think — before moving along to another spot. One time it stretched out, put its legs on each side of the fence and took a short snooze. I watched as a yellow swallowtail butterfly did its flitting to and fro thing. All in all, a very bucolic morning.
What does bother them — and me — is the intrusion of noise from such things as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, power tools and tree trimming tools. My neighborhood seems to have an inordinate amount of that kind of sound pollution. I’ll admit that I’ve been driven indoors when not one, not two, but three homes in this little neighborhood have screeching motors of one kind or another going at once.
I admit to harboring a secret wish to live in a mountain cabin, in a place where the nearest neighbor’s lawn mower cannot be heard. It would be awesome to sit outdoors, have some lunch and listen to only the sounds of the songbirds and maybe a babbling brook. But I also have to admit that me and my mister are as guilty as our neighbors for contributing to the sounds of the modern neighborhood because we do use an electric lawn mower.
However, today I didn’t mind the traffic. In fact I didn’t even notice it and neither did the squirrel. Nor did the scrub jay who was alerting everyone to the news that a red-tailed hawk was close by. You know, I guess my brain has adjusted to that traffic white noise, because I was able to recognize the sound of a hummingbird approaching just before I saw it dart from over the fence to sneak a peek at our hanging tree.