Peace and Quiet

by Nancy Jane Moore

I woke up in the middle of the night and looked out my bedroom window to see an arc of treetops over the roof of my neighbor’s house. The moon, just past full, was coming into view.

The beauty of it overwhelmed me. I wanted to just lie awake and stare at it all night.

My camera isn’t good enough to get a picture of those trees at night, but here they are in the daytime:


I’m looking forward to watching them as the seasons change and hoping they weren’t too affected by the drought. Once I get blinds (right now I’m changing clothes in the dark, just in case the neighbors are looking this way), I might open them all the way once I turn out the lights, just to be able to look at these trees from bed.

I’m glad those neighbors tend those trees. And I’m glad for something else: It’s quiet here.

Quiet for the city, I mean. Sometimes when I go out the front door on a quiet night with the wind coming from the north, I can hear the highway four blocks away. The train tracks are about the same distance to the east, but I don’t really mind train noises the way I mind the steady hum of highway traffic.

I hear the cars going up the street, but there aren’t lots of them. My next door neighbor has a motorcycle, which is noisy when she starts it, but that’s a short term noise. Since we got lots of rain in January and more so far in February, I’ve heard lawnmowers, though not, fortunately, at 7 AM. I haven’t been here long enough to know if any of my neighbors use that cursed device, the leaf blower. I hope not.

I haven’t even heard any barking dogs, which amazes me, since I’d be willing to be that Austin has the highest per capita dog population in the country. Some days it seems like everyone but me has a dog. But apparently my closest neighbors don’t.

Cats we have in abundance, and they seem to like my yard. They’re friendly cats and deign to let me pet them. And they’re not at all noisy. Since several of them are large, I have hopes that they will keep down the mice population. Though if I put in a bird bath or feeder, which I’d like to do, I should make sure it’s cat proof.

Most of the time, the noises I hear are my own: the heater, the radio, the kettle whistling on the stove. Noises I can do something about if they annoy me. If any of my neighbors are prone to loud parties, I haven’t discovered it yet. Though some keep chickens — keeping chickens is a major householder hobby in Austin — I haven’t even heard any roosters.

And I don’t have to worry that I’m making noise that will disturb the neighbors either — at least, not now that the contractors are done. I will mow the grass (at least until I figure out how to replace it with something that doesn’t need mowing), but not at 7 AM. I’ll play music, but I won’t blast “Stairway to Heaven” out into the yard. I’ll practice my drum, but it’s a djembe and by itself is not loud enough to travel to the neighbors. (Though I do have visions of having an informal drum circle here some day, which might be a little noisier and entail warning the neighbors.)

It occurred to me while I was enjoying the peace and quiet here that, for the first time in more than 30 years, I’m living in a place that doesn’t share a wall with the neighbors. I’ve lived in duplexes, four-plexes, and apartments, all of which allowed you to hear the neighbors. For the most part, my neighbors weren’t annoying, but you still heard plumbing, radios, barking dogs, and the occasional argument. Even my house in DC — which was much bigger than this one — was what is called “semi-detached”: I shared a wall with one neighbor, though the yard separated me from the folks on the other side.

I’m not sure the detached single-family home — especially occupied by one person — is a model for the future. Right now I’m reading Bill McKibben’s Eaarth, in which he argues that climate change has already gone so far that this is no longer the planet we were born on (thus the extra “a” in Earth in his title). Nothing like reading about global warming to make you question your lifestyle.

But, oh, I love the peace and quiet. Some years back, I took an aptitude test in which I discovered that I’m particularly good at hearing the difference between different pitches in music. This is a good ability for a musician, but it also has a drawback according to the people who gave the test: It makes one very sensitive to noise.

Which probably explains why I get rabid when confronted by leaf blowers and am offended by retail establishments that not only play music inside the store, but have it set up for outdoor speakers. I should be able to walk down the street without hearing other people’s music. (And don’t tell me to use an iPod. Blocking your hearing while walking down the street is not safe.)

I am a city person, though. I want to be close to the library and the grocery store and good restaurants and night clubs and movie theaters. And, of course, to friends. I just want a little peace and quiet at the same time.

It looks like my new neighborhood is the right compromise. Now to see if more quiet makes it easier to write. Though I suspect that what my writing really needs is for me to have a shorter things to do list.

Flashes of IlluminationFlashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.

My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.

Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.


About Nancy Jane Moore

Nancy Jane Moore's science fiction novel, The Weave, is now available in print and ebook versions from Aqueduct Press. Some of her short stories are now appearing as reprints on Curious Fictions. She is a founding member of Book View Cafe. Her BVC ebooks can be found here. She also has short stories and essays in most of the BVC anthologies. In addition to writing fiction, Nancy Jane, who has a fourth degree black belt in Aikido, teaches empowerment self defense. She is at work on a self defense book that emphasizes non-fighting skills.


Peace and Quiet — 3 Comments

  1. Will the municipality allow people to water their trees? That’s the only way they’ll survive a major drought.
    There are elaborate tactics one can adopt to make a bird station cat-proof — find the websites with details. But birdseed always attracts rodents, which you do want the cats to prune back. (I discovered that my own cat, having wiped out the mice and voles in my yard, has been crossing the street and hunting the ones at my neighbor’s bird feeder. My neighbor is pleased and grateful.)

  2. Brenda, I think it’s OK to water trees during drought restrictions if you hand water them directly. In fact, I think the city wants you to do that. I took a composting class last night and learned about how to put mulch and compost around trees, too.

    Given the cat population of this neighborhood, I don’t think rats are going to be a problem. But squirrels are, I’m sure. Squirrels are too big for cats to intimidate.