When our terrier arrived to live with us a couple of summers ago, he was described as a quiet dog who nevertheless could be expected to sound an alarm when gas-powered weeders came within earshot. True to his billing, Foster barks without end when I crank up my power weeder, and he doesn’t care for anything else with a small engine, either. He’s charged my lawnmower a few times, as if trying to tree a coon, and swelled by the reckless courage that touches all terriers, he thinks himself more than equal to the challenge of the steel blade whirring in front of him.
I have no choice but to place Foster under house arrest until the mowing is done, banishing him to the den, where he yelps himself silly as I trim the yard.
Summer is a season of high alert for a dog who doesn’t like lawn equipment, since my neighbors and I tend to work on our yards in shifts, meaning some kind of mechanical rumble throughout much of a weekend.
But with autumn, mowing and weeding chores subside, and the decibel levels beyond our windows diminish as well. The quiet has been sweetened this week as I look toward our portable generator, recently pressed into service for Hurricane Isaac, and consider myself lucky that I haven’t had to to use it again. Many of those in the path of Hurricane Sandy weren’t quite so fortunate, as the storm prompted power outages and forced scores of Americans in the Northeast to gas up their generators for extended duty.
Sandy, widely billed as a Frankenstorm, reminded me that our storms, like our professional wrestlers and quarterbacks, appear to be getting bigger by the year.
I’ve been grateful these past few days that the local weather forecast brought nothing more dramatic than a few brisk nights requiring us to retrieve winter bedding from the closet shelf. An heirloom quilt rested on top of me as I dozed last weekend, its presence as heavy as a pot lid across my chest. Burrowed beneath blankets, I couldn’t help noticing that autumn has deepened the quiet of our patio, too.
On summer nights, the courtyard beyond the bedroom window is a wall of sound, as frogs and crickets create a symphony almost loud enough to make my ribs hum. Their performance reminds me that in the natural world, the sounds of summer tend toward the collective, with crickets, frogs and lawmowers chiming in unison.
Autumn, though, is shaped more strongly by the solo performance — the lone squirrel rustling through leaf litter, the random woodpecker drumming a lightpole, the solitary barred owl hooting into darkness.
The things that go bump in the night at this time of year are probably acting alone, but I can’t say for sure what happens in our yard while I doze on autumn evenings. I found the fountain head in our goldfish pond tipped over the other morning — a heavy thing, not likely moved by even the strongest wind. I’m guessing that a clumsy raccoon was the culprit. I keep listening for his return as I drift into sleep these autumn nights, the yard still enough to hear a pin drop.