just quiet enough
to hear fireflies over the roar
made to keep me cool
I just read a note from my brother Jack.
Jack told how a new member of their neighborhood went into battle against his lawn with more equipment then Eisenhower landed at D-Day.
Jack recounted that while the neighborhood was assaulted with the roar of lawn care equipment, the new neighbor attacking his lawn, wore ear plugs.
This amount of noise for this amount of result was too much.
Should something be said?
Jack posed the question of what to do.
Somehow George Washington created the first great lawn in America without a weed eater.
I have daydreamed about starting a lawn care company that used only non-powered tools
A lawn care company that would market commercials showing the “loud company” and sound of Boeing 747s taking off or just powered lawn care equipment and then go to my company and clip clip clip of on old fashioned hedge trimmer
The commercials would end with the tagline, “The Quiet Company,”
Then I felt sorry for the new neighbor.
What private hell must his work life be that in order to exhibit some measure of control in his life, he took on the theory and practice of the well kept yard, 21st century style.
Then I shook my head over the fact that anyone would try to control and manicure nature.
Mankind can keep nature at arms length for a while maybe.
When I was commuting into downtown Atlanta, I knew where to spot a sapling that was growing in an expansion joint of an I85 overpass.
It looked to be growing in solid concrete.
Yet it was there every year and every year a little bigger.
I used to own a house that had a back yard of Georgia forest.
When we moved in I attacked the back year with mowers, machetes, chain saws and axes.
My plan was to drive the trees and bracken back and have a real backyard.
I took out about about 20 trees.
Forest management is a fun and un-complicated way to really mess up your life.
Just the words “chain saw” should have mandatory warnings attached.
I mowed over stumps and small trees.
I burned and slashed.
I brought daylight into the forest in one summer.
The next spring, the forest reacted to all the new available sunshine and it exploded right back at me.
Growing up in Michigan, I thought I was an expert on poison ivy.
Down here I chopped poison ivy vines as thick as my wrist .
Over five years I reached a level of rapprochement with nature and we settled on a DMZ of about 15 feet behind the house.
Not sure what has happened since we left but my money is on Nature.
Next to keeping Nature under control, the effort to keep Nature’s heat under control is another effort with the questionable result of being cooler for the price of lots and lots of noise.
I remember a summer family trip to Wisconsin, we had checked into a hotel somewhere about halfway to my Uncle Jim’s summer cabin.
We were, probably about 11 or 12 of us, exploring the 2 hotel rooms and arguing over the folding beds when my brother Jack said, “Let’s go out on the balcony and listen to the roar of the air conditioner.”
I was all for it.
And when we filed out onto the balcony that overlooked the hotel parking lot and fenced in mechanical equipment, we were greeted with the wonderful roar of the hotel’s mighty HVAC system,
I was enthralled.
I was about 10.
I was a lot older before I figured out that Jack was being sarcastic.
I remember reading an essay once by a feller who wrote about the most wonderful sound in winter.
It was the sound an automatic coal basket made when it dropped fresh coal on the furnace fire in the middle of the night.
I knew just what the feller meant.
But for me, it was air conditioning.
To be sure we grew up with a Dad who loved air conditioning.
Dad had two temp settings for the A/C.
Off and FULL BLAST.
Whether at work, at home or in the car.
A family summer trip riding in the front seat of the car with Dad was the coldest winter feeling I ever knew.
5 minutes was nice.
10 minutes was enough.
15 minutes you were numb.
20 minutes it was aching cold and agony and I had to pee so bad I thought I was going explode.
BUT THE sound.
The sound of air conditioning warms my heart and cools my soul.
We recently moved into an apartment.
We have a small ground floor porch that looks out over a forest.
For any apartment complex, any where, it is not too bad.
Of course just down from our porch are the air conditioning units for the building.
Out of sight, just over the hill to our left, about 1 mile away, is I85.
I hear the roar of the AC.
I feel the hum of the expressway.
I sit in a rocker and watch the dark come on.
I have heard these other sounds so long I don’t hear them.
As the dark gets darker, fireflies start flashing.
For me, over the roar of all the machines that run to keep me cool, I hear the fireflies.
It’s a nice spot.
Then without warning, there were kid’s screams,
But the kind of screams kids make when they are having the best time while being scared to death.
Two little boys ran past our porch.
Two little boys who had never seen lightning bugs, as my grand daughter told me to say in place of fireflies, before.
What I would give to be able to remember my first sighting of lighting bugs.
I envy my wife.
My wife had never seen the movie Casablanca.
When Bogart refused to get on the plane, my wife was surprised.
I cannot recall a time in my life when I didn’t know how Casablanca ended.
What’s it like to see for the first time.
What’s it like to see lighting bugs for the first time.
The boys ran around trying to catch them.
Did it bite?
Then the boys were gone.
The lightning bugs stayed around.
For the first time in my life one of them flew onto the porch and stopped about a foot from my face.
It blinked a few times and flew away.
I would have screamed like those boys if I could have got away it.
A quiet night in Georgia.
Listening to the lightning bugs and the roar of the A/C.
I sat back and I rocked in the twilight.
I wonder what my brother will do.