Tag Archives: quiet

Hot sand, then fog.

Today’s beach trip kept getting put off, until by the time I got out to the coast it was already afternoon. These flowers had opened sometime in the last week; I don’t remember ever seeing them on the California coast before. The daisy flower looks like something that might have escaped a back yard, but the plant as a whole definitely does not.

However, the Seek app tells me it is redpurple ragwort, Sinecio elegans, which is in the aster family: “Native to southern Africa, it is cultivated as an ornamental plant… It has been known to escape cultivation and become naturalized in areas of appropriate climate.” I guess that’s why it doesn’t look like a typical Pacific coastal plant.

The sand was surprisingly hot on my bare feet at first, a new thing after many months of fall and winter. But then the fog, which had been thin and drifting away, changed its mind, thickened up, and cooled everything off. I didn’t walk fast today, and I didn’t walk in the ruffles at the edge. I sat on a stump to read, behind the labyrinth, with this view:

Then I walked on up the beach a ways and sat to read a little more.

I saw this new sign, “Sensitive Wildlife Area: Do Not Enter,” one of many posted along the rope that surrounds an area not twice as large as what you can see in this picture. The dunes are of course always in flux from the changing winds. It seems odd to guard a relatively tiny spot, and also not to say what agency is forbidding the children to play there. [See more about this in the comments.]

In the car today I finished listening to The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, which I also read last year sometime. It is one of my favorite books. When I got home I read a lot of The Eucharist, and created a recipe for vegan tapioca pudding using leftover ginger pulp, agave nectar, two sizes of tapioca pearls and mostly almond milk, with a bit of coconut milk, too. It was good!

Mondays seem to be a good day to go somewhere to be alone and quiet, and not try to accomplish too much. The high school class that I teach on Sunday afternoons will end soon and maybe my Sundays won’t be so brain-deadening, but for now, I’m glad for these Mondays and for the beach that is always there, and willing for me to participate in whatever it’s doing, if only by breathing.

Holding on can be hard work.

On his blog Snakes and Ladders, Alan Jacobs quotes from Tony Tanner’s book, Jane Austen, a passage about the heroine of Mansfield Park, who is the opposite of an activist, in that she seems to do so little. But is she then inactive? Jacobs shares a good chunk of analysis that Tanner makes of one scene in Mansfield Park, which Jacobs thinks is “the single most brilliantly conceived and executed scene in all of Austen.”

Jacobs compares Austen’s Fanny Price to the character of Franz Jägerstätter in Terrence Malick’s new film, “A Hidden Life,” in the way that (quoting Tanner): “In her stillness she is not inactive: on the contrary, she is often holding on strenuously to standards and values which others all around her are thoughtlessly abandoning.”

I was very impressed by Mansfield Park when I read it a few years ago, but I missed the subtleties of the scene in the park when Fanny sits on a bench, while her friends are busy coming and going around her; you might like to go to Jacobs’ blog to read about it. It’s not long.

I’ve never read one of Alan Jacobs’ books, but I have read numerous essays by him and listened to him interviewed on a breadth of topics on the Mars Hill Audio Journal. He is always thought-provoking. I’ve also not seen “A Hidden Life” yet, but I surely am eager to. It’s likely that many of my readers have thoughts on the film, or the broad topic of quietness in the midst of noise, etc. As always, I love to hear them.

But if you prefer to remain silent, I can appreciate that, too. Jane Austen herself is quoted in the article as having asked a pertinent question,

“What is become of all the shyness in the world?”

Heathenish Noise

Why does that adjective heathenish come to mind? Maybe because peace and quiet are hard to come by anymore, and seem to require diligence and mindfulness. The current practice of designing alarms into every machine makes no provision for our need for refuge from the noisy world that is often right outside the door. They are uncivilized in that way.

My house is starting to resemble a hospital emergency room, with all the many and varied BEEPs signifying matters that need to be attended to. As in the ER, the matters are not usually life-threatening, and the messages might just be that things are working as they should. The oven beeps to let me know it has reached the desired temperature. My car beeps to tell me it is locked.

My new refrigerator beeps if I leave the door open longer than one minute. This is less of a problem now that it’s been moved into the kitchen where it belongs, but it was a constant annoyance during remodeling when I would go out to the garage to get some cold item and find that by the time I arrived, I’d have forgotten what I wanted, and stand staring into territory that was also unfamiliar. Or I was trying to figure out whether moving a shelf would improve the organization, but the psychic tension of waiting for the beeping to start was almost worse than the beep itself, and would make it hard to think calmly.

My old appliances did beep once to tell me when the timer expired, or when the microwave turned off. The new ones never stop the infernal beeping until I do something about it, like open the microwave or press a button on the stove. And all this for my convenience, I’m sure. Though I would rather risk my mug of tea getting cold in the microwave than have one more seemingly gentle alarm. All these many small beeps are like a constant and aggravating sound of dripping, or like the raven quoting “Nevermore,” that threaten to take my sanity from me.

This morning as B. and I were standing in the kitchen, I heard a beep so faint I thought it must not be in the same room. Perhaps it was from a neighbor’s house…but when I stuck my head out the back door, there was quiet. I walked toward the garage, and it got louder. Oh, no! The washing machine had stalled and was flashing a new error message along with a frequent beep, just minutes after I’d canceled the Sears repair request because the other error message was in remission.

I was getting ready to have a friend for lunch for her birthday, even though the house is still in great disorder, but all morning I dealt with the washer. Decided to call a different repair person, because I had had enough of the impersonal (and also heathenish) Sears telephone system. Then I had to be sure I kept the washer malfunctioning so that the repairman wouldn’t come for nothing. That took so much time I had to drastically alter the menu. Also, I don’t know what box my baking pans are in, so I realized I can’t make banana bread yet! I don’t know where the citrus juicer is, so bottled lime juice instead of fresh lemon juice went into the kale chips.

I was getting items from the fridge to start lunch when the microwave beeped, because I’d put my tea in there to reheat after it was forgotten in the flurry over the washer. So I went to take it out, but I must not have shut the fridge, and that started beeping. Shut that door…o.k….Now go out and check on the washer, to see if it will start now that it’s cooled a bit. No, it won’t start–but the beeper is working great.

When I came back in the kitchen there was, I hate to say it, a new and different beep happening. God, help me! This one was very fast and furious. Was it the refrigerator telling me that it’s too hot, perhaps? No….How about the stove? Is something burning, or shorting? This beep sounds so urgent. But it seems to be between the fridge and the stove…..in the drawer.  Oh. It is a comparatively old-fashioned electronic timer that must have been accidentally bumped when I shut the drawer. Simple to turn off.

I wonder if anyone has done a study on how this uncivilized beeping affects the health of humans? For myself, it seems certain it would make me sicker if I had to be in the ER hearing all those sounds. Can’t we have ring tones, say, of Pachelbel’s Canon, or a few notes of other good-mood music?

Perhaps the situation has generated a new kind of business opportunity; if I look in the phone book maybe I can find a listing for someone who will disconnect all the beeps that are getting on my nerves. The old-fashioned people noises we heard camping last week in Yosemite–I didn’t appreciate them enough.