Leaf blowers & Stink Bugs & Bears

Oh, bliss. In the past two days I’ve managed to write over 2,000 words on my new novel, which makes me SO happy, and on top of that, I’m told the temperature will drop to the sixties by tomorrow and that it might well be gray and rainy. Joy!

I see a directly connection between cooler weather and my creative process. In fact, when I’m Empress of Earth, I will rule that the temperature NEVER go above 75, not even in mid-summer, and that winter lasts at least six months, spring lasts two months, summer one, and autumn three.

I resent summer, with its demand I get out there and frolic. Harrumph. I do not like to frolic. I do like to go rambling, especially on the moors as I’ve recently discovered, but not when it’s hot, when all I do is sit and watch my feet swell. And hiking is not frolicking – it is an activity to clear the mind, open the creative passages, and contemplate new horizons. Hill walking and rambling makes me think of William Woodsworth, Beatrix Potter, John Ruskin. Frolicking makes me think of Snoopy.

I am not a Snoopy sort of person. Give me bracing temperatures, some wind, even the occasional rain showers. Now, that’s creative weather.

When winter comes I’m in the dreamtime. No more lawn mowers, or shrieking kids, or basketball games in driveways, or outdoor bar mitzvahs where the parents feel a DJ with a booming bass mixer SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS is required (a nasty mid-summer incident, best left alone), or any of that noisy nonsense. Snow. Apart from the crackle of the fire and a little Mozart or Chopin, and the occasion whistle of the tea kettle — silence. Heaven.

I dream of Dylan Thomas’s writing shed at Laugharne, which I had the joy of visiting some years ago.

“The Water & Tree Room” Dylan Thomas’s writing shed.

The above image is taken from a postcard I keep on my desk for inspiration. Okay, I will admit my own writing space is a bit more comfortable, but my Lord, that view! Such solitude and perspective!

The view from Dylan Thomas’s writing shed at Laugharne

The only problem with autumn is the incessant leaf blowers, which began in earnest today. Well, perhaps there are two problems: leaf blowers and stink bugs. For some reason, everyone in this neighbourhood is infested with sting bugs. I used to call them bumble bugs before I knew what they were, since they are such bad flyers, but apparently, they are aptly named and thus the cat next door refuses to kill them. I suspect they taste as bad as they smell. For me, the major irritation is that seven or eight of the little bastards are trapped behind the muslin covering the skylights in my office, and since I have REALLY high ceilings in this room, unless I get out the big ladder and hold the vacuum cleaner aloft, risking a dreadful fall, I am doomed to listen to them buzzing and bumbling about all afternoon over my head. It does make writing difficult.

Le Stinky Bug

I realize I am pathologically sensitive not only to too-warm temperatures, but also to noise. (I also loathe crowds enough that I sometimes wonder if I don’t have a mild form of Asperger’s. However I am so bloody empathic as to be porous, which I am assured means I ca
n’t have Asperger’s.) In fact, I am so sensitive to noise that I have invested in a life-long supply of silicone earplugs and a pair of those beautiful Bose Noise-Reducing Headphones. I use them both at once, often. Although just at the moment the earphones alone seem to do the trick. And I have Mozart’s concerto for piano and orchestra no. 21, K. 467 in C Major: Andante, playing as well, which is always soothing.

As a writer, I am not alone in my dislike of noise. Raymond Carver, if I recall the story correctly, used to ask his partner, Tess Gallagher to go over and beg the neighbors to take their barking dog in. Apparently he didn’t feel quite safe doing it himself, as his nerves were so frayed by the yowling hound. I can’t tell you how often I’ve pleaded with my husband over the years to track down the source of some noise only I can hear. Jane Urquhart retreats to what I imagine as a lonely, beautiful cottage in Ireland.

Interestingly enough, I have yet to meet a person with addiction issues who isn’t also plagued by over-sensitive hearing. Raymond Carver certainly had such issues (but let’s be very clear, Jane Urquhart does not!). Well, alcoholics are skinless in any number of ways — absurdly sensitive to every little perceived slight, prone to taking everything personally (because after all, isn’t the universe centered on ME?), but the noise issue does seem disproportionately represented in those church basement rooms where we ex-boozers met, as are writers. I’m not saying no one would abuse alcohol if you’d all just quiet down a little and stop bellowing into your cell phones. Certainly not. Just that there are links between emotional sensitivity, noise sensitivity. Magnesium deficiency, it is said, which can be caused by alcohol abuse, can lead to tinnitus and noise sensitivity. Then too,anyone who’s ever suffered through a hangover can certainly recall how the squeak of a chair across a wooden floor is magnified to a harpy’s shriek.

But, booze aside (and it has been for over 13 years) I need quiet in which to think and to write, and so do most of my writer pals. Of course, the fact that people like J.K. Rowlings can write in noisy cafes is the obvious exception, and perhaps the fact that Ms. Rowlings has children of her own is part of the mystery. People with children seem to have terribly selective hearing – unable to hear any amount of god-awful racket, but alert at the merest whimper at sixty yards if it’s in the vocal tone of their own offspring.

Well, I suppose we must take the good with the bad. The good being crisp clear air and leaves the color of topaz and rubies, an excuse to drink hot chocolate and wear soft sweaters. The bad being… oh, I’ve gone on too much about that already.

Here’s to hibernation-time — I raise my cup of Assam tea — when grouchy old bears can nod off in warm dens and there’s no one around to say they shouldn’t.

Copyright 2008 Lauren B. Davis For permissions: laurenbdavis.iCopyright.com

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