It’s a lawn, not a rice paddy!

Mrs. Dim is one of several people in my neighborhood who water their lawns every single day. Since their grass is nice and green and mine tends toward yellow during dry conditions, they of course think that they are right and I am wrong.

They are wrong.

When water is flowing down the street and into the storm drain, they are wasting water. When they water every day, they are training their grass to have shallow roots and to depend upon that daily watering. When they soak their lawns repeatedly, they increase the likelihood of fungus and other diseases in their lawns.

To verify that my opinion is right and theirs is wrong, I did a quick search of lawn watering tips on the internet. Every one of the top hits indicated that Salvageable is right. Among the sites that I read from the first ten hits were Scott, Southern Living, Popular Mechanics, and Green Grass Services. The consensus is that healthy lawns need about an inch of water a week, and that watering twice a week is adequate for a healthy lawn.

Scott recommends one half inch of water twice a week, taking fifteen to thirty minutes, depending upon the watering system. Southern Living says one inch once a week. Popular Mechanics says twice a week, maximum. Green Grass Services says two to three times a week, with a total of 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Several of them recommend using rain gauges or empty tuna cans to measure the water to make sure that the lawn is not getting too much water.

Scott, Southern Living, and Popular Mechanics all say that a healthy lawn can be allowed to go dormant during a dry summer. Scott says the lawn can remain dormant for up to two months. When it rains, the lawn revives. Popular Mechanics notes that the choice of a dormant lawn depends upon use-if people or animals walk or run on the lawn a lot, that could harm the dormant grass.

Experience has shown that my lawn can tolerate a lengthy dormant period. After a decent rain, my grass turns just as green as Mrs. Dim’s grass. Meanwhile she has been watering her lawn every day, cutting and trimming it every five days, working hard to maintain her lawn to her personal standards. Of course she gets up early in the morning to trim and mow her lawn, not caring how much noise she makes while other people are still trying to sleep.

Aside from early morning noise, does the watering of lawns in the neighborhood make any difference in my household? It makes a difference when it takes twenty minutes to fill a sink to wash some dishes. It makes a difference when a shower is nearly impossible due to low water pressure. It makes a difference in the big picture of life, when people like Mrs. Dim waste water because they can, while other people in the country face dire water shortages.

Mrs. Dim is an old dog who will never learn new tricks. It must frustrate her no end when, a day or two after it rains, my grass is as green as hers. It might help if she took the time to check her opinion with research as I have done this morning. Friends, that is not going to happen. J.

World religions and the LCC

I would rather have a Muslim family or two living in the neighborhood and practicing Sharia Law than be surrounded by neighbors active in the Lawn Care Cult (LCC).

In fact I would be delighted to live in a religiously diverse neighborhood, populated by Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Daoists, Confucianists—even an eloquent atheist or two. I would want to organize a neighborhood book club in which we read about one another’s sacred traditions and discussed them respectfully—not as a debate, but as a genuine gathering to understand each other. But no matter how long I live, I will never understand the LCC.

A thought came to me while I was mowing this morning. My attitude toward lawn care resembles the attitude many people have toward Christianity: one hour a week is sufficient to meet my needs, and often other priorities cancel even that one hour of the week. I go through the proper motions to get through the hour as quickly as I can; and when I’m done, I’m done. God understands. Anyhow, I’ve never been too impressed with organized lawn care.

I started mowing after nine o’clock this morning. Mrs. Dim started mowing and trimming at seven. After all, you have to get to work early in the summer, before the day gets too hot. Churches ring their bells on Sunday mornings, so why shouldn’t members of the LCC be active early in the day? My daughters were grumpy about waking up to the noise, but I have taught them to be respectful about other people’s religious beliefs and practices.

I have said before that I wish I could be as zealous in my Christianity as Mrs. Dim is with her lawn care. Perhaps the problem is that the LCC has not found a way to make lawn care an uplifting experience. They have not experimented with ways to make lawn care more attractive to people new to the community, those who have not grown up nurtured in the LCC and its practices. They have not had meetings in which they ask each other what would make lawn care more attractive to those who are not part of their group. They do have pamphlets and flyers (from the Cooperative Extension Service and from Home Depot) and they have a weekly column in the local newspaper—in the very same section that contains the weekly religious column, the daily television listings, and the daily comics.

Noon is approaching, and Mrs. Dim is still finding tasks to keep her busy in her back yard. She calls it “piddling,” which sounds odd to me. I always thought “piddling” was what a puppy did on the kitchen floor if you didn’t get the puppy outside quickly enough. I have finished mowing, did a little trimming, and put my tools away long ago—I’ve had a shower and gotten some other tasks done, which is normal for a Saturday. In fact, since I started tying this paragraph, Mrs. Dim started blowing imaginary dirt off her deck, which has led to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” playing on my CD player. Oh, for some Sharia to discuss sometime! J.

 

Weekend repairs; or, flies in the ointment

The weekend was good and I don’t wish to complain… but I will anyhow. There were three flies in the ointment that kept the weekend from being perfect. Murphy’s Gremlins were not interested in leaving the family alone all weekend.

The first of the flies arrived Friday night, as a puddle of water began to flow from under the refrigerator. I pulled the refrigerator away from the wall, expecting to find a leak in the hose that connects to the ice maker. At first I found no such hole, and I began to suspect that the leak was coming from the dishwasher. Since the dishwasher was not running at the time, I put some green food dye in a glass of water and poured it into the dishwasher drain. When the puddle under the refrigerator did not turn green, I rechecked the hose and finally found a small leak. For a short-term solution, I turned off the water line to the icemaker, hoping that we had enough ice to make it through the weekend.

Of course Murphy’s Gremlins act on a Friday night, not in the middle of the week. And of course they choose a weekend when family from out of town is coming to visit. At least I was able to visit with more talented do-it-yourself relatives about the needed repair. From the internet, I had gathered that I needed either to replace the entire hose or to cut the leaking section and attach the two pieces of hose with a connector. My relatives recommended a connector and also suggested that I take the removed section of hose with me to the hardware store to be sure to get the right size connector.

Murphy’s Gremlins visited again Saturday afternoon when the spring on the garage door broke. I’ve reattached broken springs on that door before, but this time the spring managed to break at both ends. A fair amount of trial and error was required to get the entire system working again (and I have several unattractive and painful scrapes and cuts on my hands from the repair), but after about an hour (and with some assistance from my daughter when two hands were not enough), I got the door working again.

Sunday, Murphy’s Gremlins got some help from Mrs. Dim. After returning from church, family members decided to take some pictures of each other in front of the house. One part of the family had flown in from out of town and rented a car at the airport. When we came back from church, they parked in the street, since they would be the first to leave after our cookout. Of course they parked on the very patch of pavement where Mrs. Dim likes to leave her trash bags of cut grass and other lawn maintenance residue. (The city ordinance forbids putting such trash on the pavement-it’s supposed to be left on the lawn within six feet of the pavement. But Mrs. Dim doesn’t want to risk hurting her carefully-tended lawn, so she usually puts her bags on the pavement.)

So, while we were involved in family photographs, Mrs. Dim began dragging her trash bags right to the property line. The first she placed directly on the line; the others were more on my side than her side. (Yes, they were on the grass.) I think my out-of-town family assumed that I exaggerate when I describe Mrs. Dim’s petty and childish behavior. Now they got to see it for themselves. When we were on the other side of the house, I whispered to my sister, “This is SO going on the internet.”

All of these problems were relatively small. No one crashed while traveling, and no one was taken to the hospital from my house.  The weather was virtually ideal, everyone got enough to eat, and we enjoyed each other’s company. It would take a genuine curmudgeon to find any reason to complain about the weekend-but a curmudgeon is exactly what I am. J.

Why nobody likes me

Mrs. Dim and I had a disagreement this weekend. I described it to Dwayne at City Hall as a difference of opinion; it could easily have been called a shouting match. I did not intend to shout at Mrs. Dim. In fact, I had not planned on speaking to her at all. When she began shouting insults at me, though, I found myself raising my voice to be heard.

This year Mrs. Dim is paying a young man to mow her yard (giving her more time, I guess, to play with her leaf blower). He had already mowed twice this year when I was not at home, and his mowing had taken him far across the property line into my bed of wildflowers. I was glad to be at home this time as he was working, so when he was ready to mow outside Mrs. Dim’s fence, I went over and introduced myself. “I’m J.,” I said, and “I’m Scott,” he answered, and we shook hands. I showed him where the corner of my property is—the surveyor’s stake is still there, pushed deep into the ground—and indicated the landmarks to follow that line to the other corner of Mrs. Dim’s yard. Scott was very attentive, and even after I went back inside he was careful to mow only to the line and not as far as he had mowed earlier this year.

Poor Scott, though, found himself in the middle of neighborly squabbling. Even before I had the chance to introduce myself, Mrs. Dim was already shouting, “Go back in your house, J.,” and, “A real Christian wouldn’t do what you’re doing, J.” She also shouted, “This is why nobody likes you, J.” She openly acknowledged that she had instructed Scott to cut my weeds. I tried to get Mrs. Dim to tell me what the word weed means—I was hoping to establish that a weed is an unwanted plant, so I could say that native wildflowers are not unwanted in my lawn, even if they are unwanted in hers. Instead, she only pointed at my wildflowers and shouted, “That’s a weed,” leading me to handle the daisy-like bloom gently and answer (in as loud a voice as hers, I regret to say), “This… is a flower.”

Scott handled the situation well, mowing along the property line and then over to Mrs. Dim’s fence. I went inside, hoping the problem was over for the time being. After Scott left, Mrs. Dim played her radio in her garage at top volume for about half an hour to show her displeasure—surprisingly childish behavior for a woman who is nearing seventy years old. I put on a Schubert CD and kept the windows closed and was able to survive her tantrum unharmed.

This morning I called City Hall to verify that I have the right to raise wildflowers on my property. I indicated that they are the same kind of wildflowers that the state’s highway department encourages along the highways. Dwayne said that, of course, I’m allowed to grow native wildflowers on my own property, although he was unwilling to put that statement into writing for me. Instead, he said that if my neighbor is coming onto my property and cutting down my plants, I should either call the police or hire an attorney.

I think I handled the situation as well as was possible for me. With my battles with anxiety, confrontations are difficult for me. Although she has not taken the time to get to know me, Mrs. Dim knew how to make her insults stick in my head. I have had to remind myself repeatedly that people do like me—at work, at church, where I teach, and lots of places. It’s only Mrs. Dim who doesn’t like me.

 

People have asked me why I don’t just talk to Mrs. Dim when I have a problem with her—when her prolonged leaf-blowing is getting on my nerves, for example. This episode, I think, verifies what I already suspected. Mrs. Dim cannot be approached calmly and reasonably. The better approach for both of us is for me to maintain a healthy distance. With any luck, someday soon she will relocate to a retirement community where they will let her play with the leaf blower as much as she wants, and I won’t know anything about it. J.

 

The worst part of the holidays

Someone recently asked me about my favorite part of the holidays. I am not going to answer that question in this post. No, curmudgeon that I am, I must first talk about my least favorite holiday activity, the part of the season I dread the most, the activity that I would rather not do, but which I did yesterday.

The worst part of the season is decorating the front of the house with holiday lights. I have trouble with heights, but it is impossible to avoid heights when decorating the house for the holidays.

I once lived in a house where I could climb out a second story window onto the porch roof and attach decorations above the porch. That decorating was not so bad. Then I lived in a house where the eaves were well in reach, just a step or two up a stepladder. That decorating also was not so bad. In my current house, the only way to get to the eaves is to go up a tall ladder, high into the air. I can move the ladder along the house and go up and down the ladder fifteen times, or I can climb the ladder to the roof of the house and work along the edge of the roof. I have tried both methods, and I prefer the second way.

First I got the five strings of lights out of the box and untangled them. When they were untangled, I plugged them all in to test them. All of the lights were working. I carefully coiled the strings, hoping they would not tangle while I climbed the ladder. I looped them and the extension cord around my arm, took a deep breath, and began to climb.

One of the three bad things about decorating the house is climbing the ladder. It is a long aluminum extension ladder that is safe up to three hundred pounds, and I weigh well under three hundred pounds. Even so, about half-way to the top, I feel as if the ladder is unstable. I feel this for two reasons: when my weight is in the middle of the ladder, the ladder flexes a bit—my weight has more support near the top and the bottom of the ladder—and also my legs are shaking, making the ladder shake. All the same, I climbed all eighteen rungs (Of course I counted them!) and crawled onto the roof.

The second of the three bad things about decorating the house is being on the roof. Have I mentioned that I have trouble with heights? When I was a small boy I tried to climb trees, because boys are supposed to climb trees. My mother and father were working in the garden, and I screwed up my courage and began to ascend a tree. Before long I reached the point where I was too scared to move either up or down. I would call to my parents for help, and my mother or my father would walk over to the tree, reach up, take hold of me, and bring me back to the ground. They did all this with their own feet flat on the ground. This happened several times. In elementary school, I could not climb the rope to the top of the gym, not because my arms were too weak, but because I was too frightened to get far from the floor.

Once I was on the roof, I untangled the strings of lights again. Then I went to the corner of the house nearest the ladder, pulled a handful of leaves out of the gutter, and clipped one end of the first string of lights to the gutter. As the morning went on, I crab-walked my way along the edge of the roof—remember that I have trouble with heights—cleaning out leaves and clipping lights. Sometimes I had to fuss a bit with the plastic clips to make them hold the lights and then make them stay clipped to the gutter. I worked my way along…the first string…the second string…the extension cord…the third string (I was now past half-way)…the fourth string…the fifth string. All along the way, of course, I was pulling handfuls of leaves and dirt out of the gutter and letting them drop to the ground. Finally the last clip was in place, and I only had to go down and put the ladder away.

The third of the three bad things about decorating the house is going down the ladder.

Before I went down the ladder, I sat for a few minutes on the roof, not near the edge, and looked out over the neighborhood. Also I listened to the chorus of leaf blowers being operated in the neighborhood. Not only do I have trouble with heights; I also have trouble with loud noises, and leaf blowers are a particular bane to me. I can fall into an anxiety attack from the sound of a leaf blower when I am inside the house with all the windows closed. Mrs. Dim chose that fine Saturday to groom her yard. Her goal was met when not a single blade of grass was in contact with a single leaf from a tree. This meant that from time to time she had to backtrack and claim the leaves that had fallen since she started blowing leaves. The entire hour I spent decorating the house, she was blowing leaves, then stopping to bag leaves, then blowing more leaves, then stopping again to bag leaves. From my vantage point on top of the roof I could hear two or three other leaf blowers operating in the neighborhood.

Finally I found the courage to approach the ladder. Getting on the ladder from the roof is not easy. I had to swing my leg over the edge of the roof and feel for a ladder rung I could not see. That was hard to do with my right leg. Once my right foot was planted on a rung, I had to get my left leg off the roof. That was even harder. Finally I was standing on the ladder facing the house. Rung by rung I made my way down—only seventeen rungs going down (of course I counted them!) and the worst rungs were numbers eight, nine, and ten, when once again I was in the middle of the ladder, feeling it flex and shake.

I made it safely to the ground, put the ladder away, and went inside to wash my hands. As I stood at the sink my legs were still trembling. Almost literally, my knees knocked together. After my hands were clean, I prepared lunch and ate it. Then I went to the grocery store to get two ingredients for supper. I came home and put them away. Mrs. Dim was still working in her lawn. I got out my rake and raked the front lawn, putting all the leaves from the lawn in a big pile by the curb so the city can take them away and use them as mulch in the city parks. (I recently read that bagged leaves and lawn refuse make up thirteen percent of the garbage in our landfills. Thirteen percent!) When the front yard was tidy, I got out a box of plastic greenery and bows and decorated the railing around the front steps of my house. Mrs. Dim was still working on her lawn. I went inside, put some loud music on the CD player, and tried to accomplish some work on the computer. Mrs. Dim was still working on her lawn.

When it was becoming dark, I went outside and plugged in my lights. One part of one string was no longer working, but I didn’t care. If someone else wants to go up on the roof and try to fix that string, that’s fine with me, but I can make it through the month with only ninety percent of my lights working.

Someone might ask, J., why don’t you pay some other person to decorate your house if it troubles you so much, being that you have trouble with heights? The answer is that I do not have enough spare money to pay someone to spend an hour decorating my house. At least I do not have as much money as it would take to persuade me to decorate someone else’s house if his or her house was as tall as my house.

Besides, I feel a certain nobility in the fact that every year I do something for my family even though the act terrifies me. Other years I approached the task with stoic nobility—I don’t like doing it, but I will ignore my fears and get the job done. Now that I am in therapy, I am learning to be aware of my fears and deal with them instead of ignoring them. That made this frightening exercise a bit more meaningful, because I was able to use the things I am learning in therapy to address my fears while decorating my house for the season.

What did I learn? I learned that I have trouble with heights.

But now I have blue lights across the front of the house, and every night, for the rest of December, I will plug in the cord that powers those lights and let a blue glow shine in the neighborhood. One of the great things about those blue lights is that they make other people’s white lights seem a dingy yellow by comparison.

Guess how Mrs. Dim decorates her house for the season . J.

 

Caretaker or controller?

This weekend most people in the neighborhood were busy with lawn care. Saturday, I had some work to get done indoors on the computer, so I missed the flurry of mowers and blowers. In fact, I put on some loud rock CDs to miss as much as the mowing and blowing as possible. I had to run an errand around three o’clock, and Mrs. Dim glared at me as I drove off. I wasn’t alone, and the other person noticed the glaring too. “I have leaves on my lawn,” I explained, “and she’s getting all the leaves off her lawn. This is very important to her.”

“What a sad excuse for a life,” my friend said.

Mrs. Dim got her work done yesterday. More than twenty large black bags line the curb along her yard. They are on the street (which is against the law) because she doesn’t want them on her grass. And only a few leaves have fallen on her lawn so far today.

This afternoon after lunch I got out my rake and my wheelbarrow and went to work. First I cleared the front lawn, moving all the loose leaves to the curb (but still on the grass by the curb, because it is illegal to put them on the street). The city will come by with a machine to pick up loose leaves within six feet of the curb; they will be turned to mulch and used by the park district. When the front lawn was clear, I started raking the back yard, carting loads of leaves to add to the pile by the curb in the front yard. After more than an hour I quit, both because my muscles were getting sore and because the pile of leaves within six feet of the curb was about as high as gravity will allow. I will continue the job another day.

Using the rake and the wheelbarrow, I was able to hear birds singing while I worked (except when another neighbor was using his mower). Leaving the leaves loose, I have the pleasure of knowing that they will become mulch instead of rotting in a landfill. I recently read that thirteen percent of the space in our nation’s landfills contains bagged leaves and lawn clippings that will merely decompose in their bags without doing good for anyone. I’m glad to know that the leaves that fell on my lawn can be mulch in my flowerbeds, and when my flowerbeds are full, the rest can be mulch elsewhere.

Mrs. Dim and I have very different philosophies about lawn care. She wants immediate gratification—she wants what she considers the perfect lawn today, and she is unconcerned about the world her grandchildren will inherit. I’m more interested in taking care of the entire world and leaving it better for my children and grandchildren. If it irritates the neighbors to see leaves on my lawn, I try not to let their attitude bother me. I remember that every bag of leaves I do not send to the landfill leaves the world a tiny bit better for future generations.

The philosophic difference is even larger, though. I see myself and my fellow human beings as caretakers of the world God made. Wherever possible, I try to work within the system the Creator established in his wisdom. If a patch of wildflowers appears on my property, I mow around it and let the flowers bloom. Mrs. Dim doesn’t want just to take care of her property. She wants to control her property. She calls the wildflowers weeds and poisons them so they don’t disturb her grass. She tends her flowerbeds so they contain only the flowers she planted there. She bags her leaves and then spends money for mulch at the store. She does not care to hear the birds sing while she controls her property. Mrs. Dim is not content with the world that the Creator designed; she is determined to improve it to meet her high standards.

When someone has a different approach to lawn care, Mrs. Dim glares at them while they drive off to do other tasks. When someone’s opinion is different from mine, I don’t glare at them. I just allow them to inspire another blog post. Enjoy your lawn, Mrs. Dim, and have a nice day. J.

My reel mower

In the last half of 2012, when the world was coming to an end and everything I owned was falling apart, I experienced one loss that brought me great joy. I was mowing the lawn and hit a patch of thick grass near the property line by Mrs. Dim’s house–Mrs. Dim waters her grass almost every day, even when it rains–and the mower engine died and would not start again. It may sound strange that I was glad to see my lawnmower die, but this breakdown gave me the chance to buy something I had wanted for several years: a reel lawnmower.

For the uninitiated, a reel lawnmower operates on neither gasoline nor electricity. It is powered only by the strength of a human body. As the mower is pushed forward, the turning of the wheels sends a reel spinning, and that reel consists of several sharp blades that cut the grass.

It was late in the mowing season, and none of the stores in town had reel mowers in stock. I had to order my mower online and wait a week for it to arrive. By that time, the grass had gotten pretty high, and the first two mowings were hard to do. After that the mowing got easier, and I loved my reel mower.

A reel mower is quieter than the typical gasoline lawn mower. One can actually hear the birds sing while cutting grass with a reel mower. A reel mower also does not burn any gasoline. Less noise pollution and less air pollution-what’s not to love? Leaving more gasoline supply for other purposes, I saw the price of gasoline drop a nickel each week for a month once I started using my reel mower. Of course I take all the credit, and imagine what would happen to the price of gasoline if everyone used a reel mower. Besides, my doctor wanted me to get more exercise, and mowing with a reel mower was just the ticket for more exercise.

Already I had been raking leaves instead of blowing them. Already I had been using a hand tool to trip the grass along the sidewalk instead of using a power tool. Now I had the best improvement of all: a reel lawn mower that was quiet, energy efficient, and provided me with weekly exercise. Since the reel mower was not hard to start, I didn’t mind taking a break for rest and a drink of water while mowing. I didn’t mind mowing different parts of the property on different days instead of rushing to get the week’s mowing done on the same day. I didn’t mind mowing at all, except for the times that the neighbors got out their loud smelly mowers while I was enjoying the day with my reel mower.

My mother and father said they remembered using a reel mower when they were young. Mrs. Dim said the same thing. Clearly, none of them understood why I would take a step backwards in technology. They could not grasp the goodness of a quiet mower that had no carbon footprint. Yes, I was smug about my reel mower.

Of course no change is perfectly good. The reel mower jammed when it hit twigs that the gasoline-powered mower could effortlessly grind to pieces. Various bolts had to be adjusted every two or three weeks to keep the reel mower operating efficiently, and the instructions that came with the mower were not very clear about what to adjust. I had to teach myself by trial and error. Worst of all, the handle of the reel mower was made from thin metal. Before the reel mower was a year old, the handle had broken, and I had to fix it and reinforce it to have a working mower.

The next summer, the handle broke again, and this time no repair I tried would hold. For a while I struggled to make the reel mower work, but meanwhile the grass was getting longer. Finally, I threw in the towel, drove to the hardware store, and bought another loud gasoline-consuming monster. I’m sure that Mrs. Dim was happy to hear the mighty roar once again. My weekly mowing takes less time, even if it does not provide as much beneficial exercise. But I miss my reel mower, and someday I hope to find a way to get a good strong handle attached to it again.

J.

Mrs. Dim blows away

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.

J.