Mrs. Dim loves her leaf-blower. She could happily run it all day. Some days it seems as if she does. In back of her house she has a small concrete patio, no bigger than the average bathroom. On a typical morning she spends twenty minutes blowing leaves and dust off her small patio. The blowing takes longer if it has recently rained, because she has to dry the leaves with the blower before they will blow off the patio.
I have thought about sneaking over to her back yard some time when she is not home and stenciling a leaf or two on her concrete patio. It sounds like a good prank at first, but I know that I would be the one to suffer. Mrs. Dim probably would stand there all day blowing at the leaves that won’t go away. And she would probably enjoy it.
When she is not blowing leaves off her patio, Mrs. Dim also takes good care of her lawn. First she mows, and then she trims, and then she blows the cut grass around the yard. Sometimes she also edges her lawn. All four machines—mower, trimmer, blower, and edger—are gasoline powered engines that make a lot of noise. Mrs. Dim likes noise. Perhaps all these noisy tools give her a sense of power. Perhaps they remind her of her husband, who used to do all this work. Perhaps they give her a way of measuring what she has accomplished. When she blows her deck clean of leaves and dust, then mows her lawn and trims and edges and blows the grass around, then gets a power tool to trim the bushes next to her house, then blows the trimmed ends of the branches, Mrs. Dim can fill an entire day with noise.
Those of you who have been following this blog for a while might have noticed that I have a problem with noise. When I was a little boy, when the electric company trimmed the trees near the power lines and ground the cut branches, I ran through the house screaming in pain. Fire crackers around Independence Day could provoke a similar fit if the noise was frequent and nearby. I’m not sure why I love the Fourth of July so much, since it provokes painful memories, from the fire trucks with their sirens in the parade to the fireworks at the fairground that night. I have always been sensitive to noise.
I don’t dislike all sounds. I like to hear birds singing. I like the chirping of crickets and tree frogs. I like the sound of distant thunder and the rhythm of the falling rain. I like music (Gregorian chant, medieval madrigals, church chorales, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Wagner, Elvis, Beach Boys, Beatles, Moody Blues, Chicago, Cars, Police—the list goes on and on), although I’d rather listen to music than treat it as background noise. For me there is no background noise. There are sounds I want to hear and sounds I do not want to hear, and that pretty well covers all sounds.
I doubt Mrs. Dim knows how sounds affect me. If she knew, I doubt she would care. The appearance of her lawn, and of her small concrete patio, mean more to her than anything else in life. Or so it seems; I have never discussed religion with Mrs. Dim. I just do my best to survive those times when she is busy blowing away at her patio.