Summer ended on Sept. 22. For some folks, however, it ends when school starts. So, my school district’s summer will end on Oct. 5, barring any unforeseen clever maneuvers by the ever-creative COVID-19 virus. This ending date clearly demonstrates that not much is “normal” at this moment in history. Please ignore the common definition of a “moment” as 90 seconds – unfortunately this “moment” seems to be running into the 90 weeks realm.
The sounds of summer are also ending. As I was lying in my bed, something I find myself doing more frequently recently, I heard the continuous whispery sound of the two air purifiers that run continuously in our bedroom. There are three layers of filters, a fine mesh, a plastic grid filled with charcoal “rocks,” and a corrugated paper filter, all designed to stop the evil smoke particles from taking up residence in my or my wife’s lungs.
Prior to the toxification of our foothill air, due apparently to the fact that we did not “rake” our forest floors sufficiently, I heard chainsaws. Lots of them as we attempt to thwart the fire gods, of which there are many more than I imagined (thank you, Wikipedia). The sound of a chainsaw can, according to the onomatopoeia dictionary, be written as brum-brum-brum-brum brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Please allow those letters to convey the annoying and discordant sound that you can hear in your head as you recall any encounters you have had with a chainsaw. I am glad that my chainsaws run on electricity, so they are pretty quiet.
A sound that is already fading from the summer-scape, that of the various songbirds, will practically disappear in the dead of winter. According to Audubon, there are just too many birds to write about in a single paragraph about the fading sounds of summer, given that around one billion birds may pass through California in a year. I did learn that a blue-colored bird with a whitish-brown chest, that for all my life I have called a “blue jay, is actually a “scrub jay,” which I found a little less elegant. I may carry on with my blue jay error anyway. Thus far I have not noted any offended bird reaction whenever I point and say, “There’s a blue jay.”
When one hears great splashes of water and chattering children, a swimming pool is likely to be nearby, much like the one that is about 1,000 feet from my house. But as summer light grows dimmer the excited voices and watery sounds begin to vanish. Of course, with the gift of COVID-19, many of these sounds have been muffled and it seems there is a little less joy in the breezes.
As I write this piece another sound has been silenced – the all-season, soft-but-powerful voice of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Even though this column is not meant to be particularly political, except my rather snarky comment about raking forest floors as a means of battling catastrophic fires, I couldn’t let this event go unremarked. But the Notorious R.B.G. was one of the most significant fighters for women’s rights, human rights and voter’s rights. I feel tremendously sad and can only hope the Senate will perhaps see its way clear to respect the rule of law while working to fill the tremendously empty seat that RBG occupied on the Supreme Court.
The final sound that will soon be missing from a few measures of the soundtrack of our lives will be the sound of powered lawn mowers. As much as I detest loud and obnoxious sounds, I’m glad they announce their presence so that I can assiduously avoid them. Why? Because I have heard too many stories about the over 6,000 injuries that they inflict on our nation. In addition, they kill almost 70 people each year. I have never looked forward to being blinded by a flying rock set in motion by the whirling blades, or worse yet being decapitated by a set of blades that have managed to set themselves free from the mower. Okay, now you can understand why I try so hard to avoid them, even though my last example is rather over the top.
Well, what I intended to be a cheery column has morphed into a mixed bag, sort of how life seems to be going for many of us as we try to deal with Zooming, distancing, masking, sanitizing and quarantining. But the least we can do is appreciate the opportunities to experience new ways of making it through our lives. I mostly am enjoying all the chances to do things differently. Hope you can too.
Kevin Wychopen is a semi-retired school counselor and columnist for the Enterprise. Contact him at email@example.com.