The war against serenity

By
From the August 2010 edition

On Sundays, some people go to church and some people sleep in. And others, Home Depot addicts, shatter the early morning tenderness with every outdoor appliance known to man: droning power mowers, howling leaf blowers, hyper-whining hedge

trimmers. . . .

Serenity smashers, all.

It’s no contest. The lumberjacks always win. Taming the suburban wilds requires rising early and pulling a Pearl Harbor on the unsuspecting: get ’em early and get ’em all day. Take no prisoners. Because to tame and prettify nature’s weedier impulses, the locals in Grandview are an unorganized Village Green Preservation Society run amok, destroying the beauty of the early morning Sunday quietude to achieve a beauty of appearance. And the trade-off is non-negotiable with these crazed utopians.

The problem with suburbia is that it’s filled with . . . suburbanites. Me, I like Sunday mornings mellow. Let nature visit. Watch the grass grow. Allow thoughts to come and go. Sip some coffee, feel it go down. Ah, good. Chase it with some orange juice. Take it easy, take it slow, be alone.

So I sit.

It’s remarkable how good it feels just to sit, especially on the patio in the backyard cathedral of the canopy of trees. It’s also remarkable how many people don’t.

I’ve noticed this year you’ve got to get up pretty darned early if you want a little bit of undisturbed peace and quiet. The weekend squires have no compunction about revving up before 9 am and not shutting down till half a day later. How can I do my Walt Whitman imitation if I have to wear earplugs?

One recent morning I got lucky. I was early and first. The sun was mildly warm, yet the wind kicked up, collectively rustling the leaves of the tallest trees, filling the air with a gentle oceanic roar. It reminded me of summers spent at my grandfather’s house in Cleveland a block from Lake Erie. The water never slept.

Soon, a squirrel I’ve named Mr. Strange made his appearance, gnawing the inner rotten core of a wooden garden border rail. Then Electric, a striped chipmunk, darted between growths looking for a snack. Big Red, the male cardinal with the funky black face and yellowish bill, perched on a lower branch, lord of the yard. More birds swooped in: robins, finches, sparrows—refugees from the howl.

As my morning meditation continued, I sat and let my mind be my mind, letting thoughts come and letting them go. My moods moved like clouds. I could follow my thoughts or follow the birds. I chose the winged ones. When they were not flying, they were chirping melodic one-liners. I counted the notes. One changed his from eight to six per phrase and I wondered why. I was fascinated. Because I could hear them.

By 10:20 am, it was over. As I spent the day inside and out, I was aware of the patches of peace and quiet. But the war against serenity didn’t end until nearly dark. So much for Sunday rest.

Nature speaks its own language, machines theirs. But they have nothing to tell me. Nature does. It is a conversation I must have. I will try again next Sunday.