The Sound of Beauty

I like quiet. I like to write in an environment so devoid of aural clutter that I can hear the florescent lights in my kitchen (and then turn them off), or–when I’m sitting at my kitchen table–I can hear the stream burbling through my yard fifty feet from the kitchen door. Quiet R Me.

I also like FRESH AIR, and tons of it. My little old (about 170 years old) house has a footprint of maybe 400 square feet. On the ground floor this footprint is punctuated with three doors to the big world, and nine separate windows. I like to open them ALL UP, and be one with the birdies and breezes, while hiding behind my computer or tromping along at my tread desk.

I have always been this way. My mother was this way. Fresh air is a cardinal virtue.

As a voracious reader of fiction, and somebody who has doubtless heard a lawn mower or two, you can see the conflict brewing. My closest neighbor is a farmer, and Dwayne–exceptionally nice, hard-working guy–never met a muffler worth maintaining or an engine that couldn’t be gunned. My other neighbor–Mike, another all around good fella–is yard proud–weed-whacking, leaf-blowing, riding mower wrangling, yard proud.

And my yard requires a lot of maintenance too, being a couple of acres, full of trees, surrounded by nature green in leaf and limb, and dotted with my oddly placed flower beds. For thirty years, I’ve had the same yard guy, and while I valued this man’s contribution to keeping me out of dutch with the weed control officer, I wasn’t so keen on his timing. Eric had the knack of riding up on his zero-turn just as I was sitting down to write a hot scene.

Or a big black moment.

Or the first kiss.

There I’d be, with His Grace of Hunklyness poised to put that taciturn mouth of his to good use offering something other than snappy repartee, and along comes Eric with his Pratt and Whitney UL approved weed-whacker right outside my window. Nary a weed dared remain standing in the face of such determination, and His Grace usually turned tail and ran too.

Eric retired last year, after decades of faithful, uncomplaining, utterly reliable, and conscientious-as-hell service. I wished him well–what else was there to do?–and scrounged around until another mowing service agreed to tame the jungle for a modest fee.

They came once, did a half-assed job. From there, it was no call/no shows, followed by rescheduling texts and more no-shows. My yard began to resemble a vacant lot, and I could hear the mountain getting ready to drag my property back to the wilderness, complete with cat-eating coyotes and Grace-menacing snakes. My house is at best a fixer-upper, and for the yard to go to knee-high weeds was surprisingly hard on my morale.

I don’t put much nevermind on gray hair, extra pounds, or wrinkles, but for my yard to fall apart felt like the forces of chaos were winning.

Eric came to the rescue, got the place in trim, and is lining up a successor who someday might come close to the level of expertise Eric brought to the yard work. The day Eric showed up to do battle with the jewel weed, I heard him fire up his lawnmower, and rejoiced greatly. A sound I had HATED, for years, became the sound of order, of a man’s kindness, of peace and repose in the place where I live and work.

Have you had any changes of perspective like that? Where you saw an old foe in a new and more constructive light? I’ll add three more commenters’ names to my ARC list for A Lady’s Dream Come True.

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49 comments on “The Sound of Beauty

  1. 1
    Ona says:

    Aren’t too many things that rouse my ire. I’m mostly a go-along-to-get-along type. Well, Big Injustices keep me awake at night, but generally speaking small stuff doesn’t get to me. However.

    I’d recently soured on dogs. See, I was out for a run on the street, headphones in (don’t do THAT anymore), and pelting at me before I could fully register what was going on comes somebody’s escaped black furry blur. A very coddled, pink-collared miniature something-or-other sunk its incisors into my right calf. It could have been so much worse. But I’ll-be-darned if it wasn’t more traumatic (and PAINFUL) than I could have guessed. This was months and months ago, and I still have the puncture marks. Now I’m not particularly a dog person; always been the kitties for me. But some dogs I like and a few I’ve even loved. But after this? I’d jump at a dog bark. I was OVER the whole canine species. Buh-bye.

    And then I was having a Bad Day. I was out walking it off when tootling round the corner comes little Cookie, our neighbor’s ancient little white lapdog. She lit up as only a dog can do when she saw me, frisking and tail-wagging and throwing herself at my feet and sooooo very pleased to see little me. Just the very person she’d hoped for, or so she’d have us all believe.

    After that day I noticed I stopped jumping at dog barks. I even made nice with a Doberman I met the other day.

    P.S. All windows of our house are currently open. It is the best.

    • 1.1
      Pam says:

      Aw, that is a sweet story about Cookie. I’m glad you got over your fear of dogs. When meeting strange dogs, I offer them my fist to smell of. Less chance of losing fingers. I do love leash laws as I grew up in a place without them. It’s tragic for the dogs.

    • 1.2
      Grace Burrowes says:

      I was bitten by the neighbor’s beagle as a kid. I never did quite get Snoopy after that… But I got a pair of big dogs when my daughter hit the latch key years, and they were great company for me one latch key became empty nest.
      I wonder if anybody is studying the benefits of lockdown with pets versus without. I’m guessing the dog owners are faring better than the pet-less people. (Horse owners are doing better still… just sayin’.)

      • 1.2.1
        Martha says:

        I remember seeing an article about how having a pet for company and for another being to care for really helps during lockdown. I just can’t remember where I read it. It’s been close to 3 months, and I’ve been doing pretty well until the last day or so. Nothing major, but I’m finding real life disorienting. I do have work to focus on, both paid and unpaid, and so that is wonderful. It’s getting too hot here to go out much, but I just got a porch swing, and the evenings do cool off a bit. 🙂
        As to a changed perspective, I’ll have to think about that. I’m not bothered by a whole lot, so when I am, I avoid it. Maybe peas. I’ve started to eat green peas, after 60 years of not likening them except in split pea soup.

  2. 2
    Teenie Marie says:

    My lawn service–since 2002–also retired this year. I usually get a letter from them sometime in February, telling me about the year’s changes (gas tax or a new service offered) and the chance to pre-pay for my fertilizing program with a discount. This year, no letter, so I called in mid-March to ask about how to repair damage deer did to the back lawn. It took a couple days, then Tim called back. He decided to retire and was in the process of sending letters to his customers. Long story short, I have a new service, not quite as good as the other but it’s early in the season.

    I have learned one of the folks I worked with is not the jerk I thought he was. This was a pleasant surprise after three years of dealing with what I thought was arrogance. Turns out, he’s a decent guy and I am thankful to have found that out! 🙂

    • 2.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      That sounds like a Turning Point in a romance novel… the growling duke is actually very patient with.. his mother’s elderly white lapdog… I think we’re onto something here!

  3. 3
    Mary T says:

    Years ago, while still working, their was a young girl in our department who just irritated the hell out of me. We were very different. She was much younger than me and from a wealthy family. She impressed me as being a spoiled little rich girl. Always talking about her daddy who was a VP in some big muckity muck corporation, and about all the important organizations her mom was involved with. Her husband was a Law student and when he graduated and passed the Bar, daddy was going to get him into a really big law firm. Usually, when she started talking, if I was able, I would leave the room.

    Well, as fate would have it, we were assigned to work on a project together. As I came to know her better, she ceased to be a stereotype and became just a human being. I came to see that she was just a product of the environment she was raised in. She was basically a good hearted person who had the same fears and vulnerabilities most of us have.

    It was an eye opener to me. I try to remember it when I come across people who seem just awful to me.

    • 3.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      That experience–of seeing a human being where a stereotype was–is essential to most conflict resolution processes, and nearly impossible when civil discourse is built around an agenda of other-ing, distortion, and dehumanization. It’s a really powerful experience to learn to see an enemy as a person, and equally powerful to see a human being as nothing but an enemy. Lordy, I hope we use our superpowers for good…

  4. 4
    Make Kay says:

    Oh yes. I was anticipating a large life change that I won’t talk about here for the sake of internet privacy. When the covid-lockdown hit, I was so grateful that the life change had not happened yet. What I had been so looking forward to, I am now glad had not yet happened. A change in perspective can be everything!

  5. 5
    Tina Armato says:

    Strangely, the change of perspective came about regarding my name. “Tina” was uncommon when I was growing up in Brooklyn, NY; instead I was surrounded by Joannes, Leslies, Sheilas, and others where I knew at least two of each. Especially since my “Tina” was not just a short form of “Christina” (I knew one or two of those too!), my name felt odd and I felt oddly left out (though certainly that was not only due to my name, but to an unusually strict upbringing). However as I grew older (and hopefully matured), I began to appreciate the rarity of meeting other “Tinas.” What once was a burden has become uniquely a part of me. Strange that!

    • 5.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      That is an interesting shift.
      I have always thought of myself as a big person… I was five foot seven as a younger woman, carried lots of extra muscle, and even more extra weight. But age has robbed me of a couple inches (or age and riding too many big, bouncy horses), and I recall seeing myself in the mirror about ten years ago. I was greying, shorter, far less muscular than in my heydey, and I thought, “Maybe I’m headed for LITTLE old lady-dom?” I think my self-image and my real appearance have been closer for asking that question.

    • 5.2
      Rita Gerstheimer says:

      I hadn’t met anyone named Rita in my neighborhood or school. My mother picked the name because it sounded about the same in German and English. When my cousin in Germany got married, I met my first Rita, the mother of my cousin’s new husband. I eventually met another Rita in junior high. Then I met three women named Rita at church as an adult. Now I get the occasional person who tells me that they have an aunt, cousin, or friend named Rita. I can usually just put Rita on something and people know it is me. I like being somewhat unique. My husband is Tom and there were several boys with the name when he was in school. He even has a first cousin with the same first and last name. Our son is Alaric. He hasn’t met another Alaric yet.

  6. 6
    Jan F says:

    I loved loved loved reading this post! I could small the fresh cut grass and hear that gurgling brook. Thank you!

    P.S. the pictures were great, too

    • 6.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      By rights, there should be cats draped all over those snaps, but it is a pretty yard (when Eric finishes with it)!

  7. 7
    Beth says:

    My shift is somewhat the reverse of yours. My quiet lakeshore was the reverse of yours. The house next to me was bought by snowbirds who only showed up a few months in the winter, kept it hermetically sealed against the pollen & humidity of rural Florida, & otherwise left me to the mercies of a house given cursory maintenance & no love. I had the blessing of open windows, whippoorwills in the evenings, & delightful visits from Momma Goose & the Sandhill Crane couple, who trusted me enough to bring their babies for visits with Approved Human.

    Then the new people moved in, right in the middle of state lockdown. I assumed (key word that) they were seeking safe shelter in terrible times & rejoiced our quiet enclave would be joined by year round folks.

    Alas.

    The heavy social schedule commenced immediately, endangering myself & my flight attendant neighbor currently undergoing risky infusions for a severe medical issue that makes my 24 procedures & encroaching age seem a mere inconvenience. Loud mouthed inebriated congregated beneath my open bedroom windows last night to the point I did the Southern Manners routine of slamming my windows shut to their great amusement & my reminder of property lines by means of running my sprinklers when they failed to move along. This morning the ball cap contingent hooted with laughter when I asked them to PLEASE fish on their own property as my backyard is not a common area.

    I miss the peace of neglect now. I’ve already had a response from the local authorities to dial 911 next time after sending them the video showing the view from my bed. (Is there any sight more ridiculous than a scruffy male in sagging shorts presenting his hind parts to an older lady lying in bed in her nightgown?) The entire street is resolved to nip this behavior now, before the summer party season gets into gear.

    Whilst I giggle at the Southern Gentleman on the corner resolved to notify the local law at the end of each day-long party so they can lie in wait to breathalize at the start of our dead end street, I’m in mourning for Momma Goose & Sandhills who have had to shift THE NEST at such an all-important time when the nestlings should be imprinting on our lake as a refuge to return to in the fall. I’m mourning the neighbors who could have been & hoping the party barn denizens have jobs to return to & at least give 5 days a week of peace. Perhaps the sudden inflow of citations & court costs to the county coffers will mend the new neighbors’ ways. One can hope.

    Until then, I miss the peaceful quiet of a neglected house next door & I’m heartily sorry I ever wished for neighbors.

    • 7.1
      Marianne says:

      Oh, dear. Please keep us posted. You do it so well!

      • 7.1.1
        Beth says:

        Thank you! I didn’t want to disrupt the peace in here. But There are times it’s the only safe place to give Momma Goose & company a voice.

    • 7.2
      Grace Burrowes says:

      That is awful. Snotty neighbors should have been consigned to one of Dante’s circles of hell. I’m sorry, for you and the beasts. Here’s hoping the Troglodytes move out soon.

  8. 8
    Brenda U. k. says:

    The opposite has happened to me over the years,Someone who was my boss and who I respected very much because she was fair and knew her job and got the best out of everyone.Her company was well run and admired by many.She was just a nice person.Her husband worked in property.We did not know him but we did not worry when it was announced he was joining his wife running her company jointly.We thought he would be a good kind man with the same goals has his wife promoted.How very wrong we were.In five years he destroyed the business,it’s reputation down the pan.I had already left,I could not stand his bully tactics,his greed ,harresing female staff and cutting corners when it came to regulation and complience.People can turn out completely different than expected.I don’t think I’m that good at summing up people quickly.Time and inner feeling helps.But life can certainly surprise.

    • 8.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      Good heavens–that would be a nasty surprise. You wonder how his wife stood him, and why she’d ever let him contaminate the office. Glad you got out!

  9. 9
    . But when he was says:

    My dad was like that, kind, steady, ready to do what needed done. But, when one of us sstepped outside the norm my siblings and I saw a diffdrent perdon.Daddy was someone else completely and I was happy to just smile and lissten.

    df, or anger

    • 9.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      By the time I came along, my dad was also a mostly quiet person, but YIKES when he blew, he exploded. As a younger father, I think the explosions were more frequent, which might have made them less frightening (or maybe it made him for frightening?), but I can recall a few of his memorable tantrums, and they were awful…. also really unhelpful.

      • 9.1.1
        Martha says:

        Is that one of the things that drew you into child welfare work as a lawyer?

  10. 10
    Marianne says:

    The elderly couple across the street had a lawnmower that made landfall with the ark. To say it was noisy was an understatement. He died. She kept going. She became forgetful and delusional, but she never forgot to mow the lawn. Frequently. She passed away. While the house was on the market a lawn service did the necessary in less than 15 minutes at a reasonable time of day. A young couple bought the house and the “lawn” (weed patch) grew and grew. One day I heard the familiar sound of the loudest lawnmower on the planet. The machine had conveyed with the house. We dont hear it very often, but I am usually relieved. (It doesnt hurt that the new operator can finish it quickly, or that he doesnt have his days and nights mixed up.)

  11. 11
    bn100 says:

    can’t think of anything

  12. 12
    Pam says:

    Aw, that was a sweet story about Eric and how the sound of motors became a sound you were glad to hear rather than a nuisance. I try to make gratitude a habit.

    The only thing I can think of that is similar is how glad I was to hear the power trucks and chain saws working after we had huge trees take out the power in a lot of the city I live in, earlier this year. We were without power for 2 1/2 days. Not fun. Fortunately, we still had running water so that was a big plus.

    • 12.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      That is an eye opener, isn’t it? I’m normally no appreciator of chain saws, but you are absolutely right. After a tornado knocked trees down all over the neighborhood, the only question worth asking was, “Who has a chain saw?” Fortunately, a lot of hands went up.

  13. 13
    Sue says:

    I have always hated my doorbell and I am not too fond of the dogs going nuts and barking down the rafters. I always told myself I was going to pick out a doorbell I liked the sound of and do a replacement, but never did.

    Fast forward to my current truth: my hearing has deteriorated to the point that I cannot hear the doorbell at all. Fortunately the dogs do the excited barking thing when it rings so I never miss a caller or the “signal” from FedX that a package has been dropped.

    I wish I had an Eric.

    • 13.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      That is quite a story. Glad the pups on on patrol. I know I have a package on the porch because the cats all go hyper-vigilant on the windowsills. You’d think the Barbarians were at the Gate, so intensely do the felines stare at those trucks.

  14. 14
    Bonnie Chamberlain says:

    You commented several times in The Heir which is the beginning of the Windham Duke of Moreland and Children Serues that eluded to a cold if Bart but it did not go any further. You want about Victor but not Bart who was The Heir until his untimely death. Can you write one about him. You did the cousins who were Anthony’s girls and you did Percival’s older brother who was The Heir. Why did you skip Bart???

    • 14.1
      Bonnie Chamberlain says:

      To a child if Bart
      I hate autocorrect

      • 14.1.1
        Grace Burrowes says:

        Bonnie, we ALL hate autocorrect!
        The short answer is… I skipped Bart because he’s dead, and a happily ever after written for a guy whom the reader knows is going to buy the farm in a tavern brawl two chapters after The End struck me (and my editor at the time) as too big a departure from the romance genre premise.
        And yes, we do meet Victor, in Douglas’s book, but Victor was never a hero. He was if anything posited as a villain who grew a conscience, and he was ready to go.
        I do sometimes wonder, “But what if Bart faked his own death so he could be one of Wellington’s spies in France, and then he fell in love with a French woman, so he had to fake his death AGAIN in order to be able to stay in France…?”
        But readers have grieved for Bart, and I don’t think resurrecting him to ride the Windham series coattails is in the cards. I could be wrong–the author is sometime the last to know!

  15. 15
    Barbara Reedy says:

    I always liked to go to work or out of the house looking complete with hair and make up. This forced working from home has helped me to see the beauty in me. I don’t need make up or my hair done just so to leave the house. There is nothing wrong with me or how I look. If you don’t like it look in a different direction cause I am proud of who I am and the age that I am at.

    • 15.1
      Grace Burrowes says:

      My mom was of the school that you never left the house, not even to go to the grocery store, without “a little eye shadow, lipstick, and mascara…” She was a beautiful woman–red hair and blue eyes, lovely figure–and I never understood that, “Do I look OK?” compulsion. That she somehow managed to not pass it on to me is amazing, given how closely daughters watch their mothers.
      But I did eventually see that taking some time to pamper yourself, to indulge in a little self-care, might be a good thing. She could justify it by calling it, “Putting on my make-up.” Heaven knows, she rarely indulged herself otherwise.
      I’m glad you are seeing your own loveliness!

  16. 16
    Amanda O'Quinn says:

    Nothing like finding a good, reliable lawn service. Never get in the way of that or the cleaning service! 🙂

  17. 17
    Amy Ikari says:

    Before I was a 24/7 worker at a law firm, assisting, translating, interpreting and living on the road many days. Then I had to become a caregiver and I learned about the preciousness of being with family. My mother suddenly passed away a couple of months ago. These memories are now comforting. As we Shelter at Home, I miss her but appreciate that chapter. Have a blessed day!

  18. 18
    ANA SILVIA SERRANO HEREDIA says:

    I love your books. They are awesome, just like you!

  19. 19
    Susan G says:

    Today was lawn service day on my street. The neighbors lawn guy comes at 7am sharp with 2 loud tractors and a super loud weed walker.
    When I worked part time Wednesday was my day off. The 7 am wake up call didn’t sit well with me. The dogs didn’t like all of the noise either.
    Now, I work full time and as I up at 6, 7am doesn’t seem so bad.
    I guess it’s perspective.

  20. 20
    Brandi Day says:

    I don’t know if this counts, but I have often thought my husband ridiculous for storing what seems like dozens of bottles of water in our basement in former laundry detergent, bleach, and other such bottles. Certainly not water we would drink out of or cook with. But, this weekend, he had to fix our plumbing, which required him turning the water off for large periods of time. Those bottles of water came to the rescue as he had always intended. We used them to refill the toilet so we could continue to flush it. So I have come to appreciate how he overthinks things at times.

  21. 21
    Cathy Worthington says:

    I had three things I was never going to do, ever. First, I was never going to get married, was never going to have kids and was never going to have a dog. And as the saying goes never say never. I was 34 before the dog ever happened, and at the time I had a lot of cats. Then a few months later, I met my husband. Still we didn’t plan to have any kids. Fast forward a couple years later and we go out of state to attend my nephew’s first birthday party, which led to maybe… One kid later and it was well, maybe we should have two. Now I have 18 and 21 year old boys that I adore, and can’t imagine not having them. Several dogs later, they passed on and we are back to cats. So, I have the husband and kids, but I’ll never truly be a dog person.

  22. 22
    Rita Gerstheimer says:

    During the ban on any business doing business that wasn’t essential, the wringing of hands happened. Those who were unable to mow their own lawns for whatever reason were rightly concerned about their city fining them for grass that was too long. My father and mother-in-law both hire lawn services. My husband and I were looking at the possibility that we would have to cut three lawns. It was a good thing that spring was slow to arrive. The grass didn’t get too high before the ban was phased out. Lawn services were one of the first businesses allowed to work again. I commented on hearing lawn services again on Facebook. Someone said it was a negative sign of spring. I pointed out that this spring it was the sound of people being able to earn some much needed money.

  23. 23
    Christine Wheatley says:

    Country life! Altho raised in the countryside then small town, upon marriage I ended up in Houston Tx, then Arlington Tx ( squished between Dallas & Ft Worth) then Jansas City Mo. now I am back in small town, it’s in Texas and I was raised in New York State. But still the struggle of no mall. Want something done? There’s always a guy. And spiders.
    A huge change of perspective. Enemies? Friends? Nope. Just different
    Change the lenses I look through is the only way to continue to grow & bloom where I am now planted.

  24. 24
    Mary Staples says:

    I used to hate the sound of silence because it made me feel the loneliness much deeper. The older I get, the more I cherish sitting in my chaise lounge reading a good book with no interruptions and no distractions. That is until the ringing in my ears starts up. Then I turn on the TV or radio for background noise.

    When we were young we took silence for granted because we were too busy to stop and just listen. Now, when we can sit and listen to the silence, it hurts our ears.

    What we need is to tune out the distractions, be still and just listen. Some say silence is overrated but I still say it’s GOLDEN!

  25. 25
    Sue Lucas says:

    I am a terrible gardener! My husband decided to surprise me with some new tools! Once I learned how to use said tools gardening and I have an agreement!
    My garden will do it’s best when I do my best!

  26. 26
    Lisa Hutson says:

    I can’t think of anything at all to add. But I liked reading your post. Thanks for sharing.

  27. 27
    Olga Cramsie says:

    In the 70’s, a long planned trip overseas was cancelled because my friend fell in love and could not bear to leave her beloved behind.
    Blast !! I determined to go it alone then in a moment of illumination, applied to join Qantas as an Air Hostess so someone would pay me to travel. I was accepted ….one woman flying with 11 men all over the world in the days when flying was glamorous. Bliss ! Loved my life, independence I met amazing people and explored fascinating places. Her marriage foundered, I met a wonderful man after lots of roaming then in another moment of illumination went back to University to train as a physiotherapist . One door slams shut but others open if you get off your fundement and go to look