June 22, 2010

The Sound of Carbon

It's 7:45 a.m. and I am having my coffee on the deck on a sunny summer morning.  I love this time of day.  I am retired, I don't have to go to work.  Life is beautiful.

My yard is private and green.  It backs up to a narrow road that I can't see in summer when the trees fill in, but I can hear the traffic that goes by.

The school bus rumbles by.  Landscape trucks rattle --- the big ones with clattery equipment on the backs of trailers.  I can't see them but I hear them.

Traffic headed to work wooshes by, car after car. We're only miles from the airport that serves our state and western Massachusetts --- airplanes on takeoff rise from beyond the green wall of trees and roar above me.  It's garbage day, and the big green behemoth shifts gears and struggles up the hill behind us.  A UPS truck headed for a delivery trundles by.  Could it be bringing my new plants?  Some kind of construction vehicle with a bad muffler and a poof of air brakes temporarily drowns out the rest of the traffic noise.

All the landscapers' giant industrial mowers are already roaring in different pitches in yards in the distance.  When they're done I'll hear the sound of blowers moving the grass clippings around.  The high buzzy whine of a weedwhacker starts up.

My husband is showering inside.  The exhaust for our gas hot water is on our back outside wall, and it adds its hot blast of noise to the background hum throbbing around me as I sit on the deck.

Whoppa whoppa whoppa, a corporate helicopter angles over my yard on its way southwest, headed to New York.  A small private plane adds its steady chop as it crosses going the other way.  Another jet on takeoff growls on its way up into the sky from behind the trees.

A motorcycle rips down the hill.  Someone a few streets over is running some kind of power tool... a saw maybe.

The unrelenting roar, the constant hum, the clatter and buzz and white noise is all around me, surrounding me in the throb of carbon burning in the early morning.

I am drinking coffee in my back yard, listening to the sounds of the earth burning itself up. 
 Deepwater Horizon - Apr. 21, photo from US Coast Guard

A train crosses the streets in the center of town three miles away, and its whistle pierces the hum of cars and airplanes and lawnmowers and trucks and buses and motorbikes and gas heaters and blowers and helicopters and weedwhackers.

It's a haunting sound, that lonely wail of the train.  It too is burning up its diesel fuel, but it alone, amidst the cacophony all around, sounds like regret.


  1. Thanks for making me stop to think, about how even us gardeners, who love nature and the earth, are also contributing to its decline with our power tools.
    On a lighter note, my dads pony just had a foal. So cute. At eighty, he is planning on hooking up his two ponys to a cart (which he doesn't have yet), and driving them to the Royal Canadian Legion, (which has a bar for the veterans). Why, I ask him, are you concerned about the environment, No, he replies, I am worried about losing my driving license, (In Canada, you have to have yearly driving tests, when you turn eighty). Good he is planning ahead, lol!

  2. Our gardens are our little oases of calm in a noisy, dirty, fast paced world. Enjoy your "peace" of the earth and nurture it! :)

  3. What a beautifully written post Laurrie. It made my heart heavy at first, because there is just so much we all do that contributes to the problem as you have so eloquently pointed out. But in being so mindful and picking out each contributing factor and really thinking about it I think we can all work on reducing our usage when and where we can.

  4. All those mowers and trimmers and weed whackers drive me nuts. If there was enough demand for quieter motors on these things, it would be easy enough to install mufflers, as they do on cars.

    I do my part by using a battery-powered mower and trimmer, both of which are quieter and don't spew smoke into the air.

    My suburban neighborhood is probably no noisier than most, but it has taken me many years not to be so bothered by the cacophony of mowers, trimmers, blowers in the fall, snow blowers in winter, noisy trucks and low-flying helicopters from God knows where.For me, it's a quality of life issue, but I suspect that many area residents are over-conditioned to noise and don't even notice it.

    Lawn equipment has been overlooked by the EPA for years in terms of its ability to pollute the air, but I believe new regulations will clamp down on that soon

  5. Deborah, The ingenuity of an 80 year old! I love it. It just shows that where there is motivation, there is a solution to anything.

    Garden Ms. S, How I long for a quieter peace in my garden oasis.

    Heidi, Thanks so much! Mindfulness and real observation is a start, I think.

    Fern, It sounds (literally) like your neighborhood is a lot like mine with all the background noise. I do think most neighbors don't even notice all the noise.


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