Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Disturbing the Peace

Early this morning, I took Big Puppy outside for a morning run around. Packers would be arriving soon to box up the breakables ahead of tomorrow's big move, and Baxter would be spending the day with the border. I thought he might want to bounce around in the grass before being shut up in a cage for hours.

We have had some heavy fog the last several mornings, and this morning we were socked in, so dense I couldn't see beyond the road at the bottom of my little hill. Beyond that road is a field and a creek, and beyond that is a major highway, and beyond that is the town edged by a railroad. None of that could I see through the fog this morning, but I knew it was there. Whole towns don't just disappear over night, now, do they?

Baxter did his business and tracked deer scents and searched for his toy for me to throw, and I marveled at how quiet were my immediate surroundings. At that hour, between school bus runs, there seemed to be not a sound but the dog's panting, and I found myself whispering to him so as not to disturb the peace. "Go find your toy," I said so quietly, and, "What's that schmutz in your tail?" I breathed as I pulled out gobs of cut grass and general crud. My dog is like Velcro out there in the yard.

I was reminded of my childhood in Indiana, when it was my job to cut the grass. My mother would leave for work on a summer day and leave me instructions. Some days, I was to cut the grass, but when I went outside, I would find my neighborhood so quiet, especially in the morning, when only the birds made any noise at all, and I couldn't bring myself to pull the cord on the mower. Making such a miserable noise as cranking up a lawn mower seemed nearly immoral on days like that. And so it was with speaking above a whisper this morning in the stillness and the fog.

Beyond the veil that separated me from the rest of the world, though, there was plenty of noise with no regard for anyone's peace. There was the constant hum from the interstate—such a semi-tractor-trailer thorough-fair that is—and there was a train rolling through, with rust on steel and horn blasts and clanking going on.

In my oasis, I could name the sources of each sound I heard even though I couldn't see any of it and could only trust it was still there, where it was yesterday and the day before that. But I imagined for a moment what I might think of those sounds if I didn't know the source. Imagine yanking some poor soul from his isolated village along the Amazon, someone who has never heard a train or ridden in traffic on a busy highway. You put the guy in my yard and aim him toward this foggy wall that keeps him from seeing more than a dozen yards, and have him listen to noises so disturbing and so industrial. He doesn't know disturbance, and he doesn't know from industry. How horrifying would those sounds be to him? And would his innate sense of fear have him running for cover, or would he be curious and ask questions? In that moment contrived all in my head, I even frightened myself for a bit until I reminded myself I DO know what's making all that racket.

Well, Big Puppy is now in his cage at the borders, and people are in my house packing up my dishes and framed photos and lamps. Outside, there are airplanes and chainsaws, and yes, even lawn mowers, and my peace has been disturbed. Even the fog has lifted. Fortunately, I'm in my own environment and have nothing to fear of the unknown. Well, maybe I do, but it's the unknown, so I can't predict it and can at least hang on to some internal peace when I can find it. In the early morning. Before the fog lifts.

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