A Quiet Life by Karen Shughart

When my husband and I decided to move from Central Pennsylvania to a small village on the south shore of Lake Ontario it was because we agreed that in retirement, we wanted a quiet life. We knew it was a trade-off. In Pennsylvania we had easy access to cultural events and were within minutes to shopping and restaurants of every sort. But we also had to contend with gridlock traffic on the highways, light and noise pollution, a drive of between 15 and 40 minutes to visit with our friends and the hustle and bustle that goes with living near a state capital.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Up here, along the lake, we have a traffic jam when there’s a car at each stop sign at “four corners”, the four-way intersection as you enter our village. We travel a distance for symphony, ballet and opera performances, the nearest mall is a 45-minute drive, and supermarkets between 15 and 30 minutes from our home. But we have an abundance of restaurants, farm markets, small grocery and liquor stores, a post office and hairdresser, the beach and even a golf course within walking distance.

There’s music everywhere in the summer, concerts on a bluff overlooking the water, and groups performing at restaurants and parks. Friends live nearby, and the longest drive to visit them is at most five minutes. What some might call noise soothes my soul: waves pounding upon the shore, the morning cacophony of birdsong, the chittering of squirrels, the soft chirping of crickets on a late summer’s eve, and the mournful call of the loons.

The quiet here is also a balm for me as a writer. A short time ago I took part in a discussion with a Cozy writers’ Facebook group where the administrator asked how many of us write with music playing in the background. I discovered that I am in the minority, most of those who responded are stimulated and feel more creative with background music of every sort. Some were surprised when I said that I get distracted, it’s hard for me to concentrate when there’s too much “chatter”.

It was an interesting discussion, and as I thought more about it, I realized how creative juices are stirred in so many ways. Writing for me is meditative, I can write for hours without paying attention to the time, and sometimes without taking a break. My husband teases that he knows not to try and discuss anything important with me when I’m writing. If he tells me he’s leaving to play golf or run errands, I’ll nod and later not remember a word he’s said and wonder where he is.

As I thought more about it, I realized that as I’ve aged I choose not to multitask as much as I used to.  I can cook and listen to rock and roll, show tunes or jazz at the same time, and do word puzzles or Sudoku while watching TV, but for some reason, writing, reading, or listening to certain types of of music are activities I want to savor individually. There’s immense pleasure and something to be said about immersing oneself in quiet pursuits.

August by Karen Shughart

Here up at the lake we’re surrounded by orchards, vineyards and farmland; gently rolling hills and meandering streams with an abundance of fish. It’s a beautiful place any time of the year, but the end of summer, the month of August, is special in so many ways.

Sunrise is a little later this time of year, we can hear the morning music of birds at around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. rather than 3:30 or 4:00 as in June. There’s something peaceful and magical about waking early in August to see the sun rise, it’s rose-gold rays casting brilliant diamond-like shards across the water. It’s a quiet time.

Warm days are the norm; some days the humidity rises, but on others bright blue skies, lazy white clouds, and a lake sluggishly rolling its waves onto the shore are a welcome change to the previously fetid air.  Sailboats dot the horizon, pontoons chug lazily about and motorboats slice through the undulating sea. Families play on the beach and picnic under a pavilion where long ago children laughed with delight as they rode a carousel.

A cornucopia of fresh produce offers up its bounty at a multitude of farm stands and markets. Lovely squashes, tomatoes, blueberries, cherries, corn, beans, and herbs create a riot of color far more beautiful than any still life painting.  And the fecund ripening of the fruit on trees in the orchards, especially the apples, the first of which will soon be ready for harvest, remind us that fall is on its way. The green, green grass of past months starts to brown, the flowers lose some of their bloom, and the limbs on deciduous trees, with their lush dark leaves, droop with anticipation as they begin to fade. In a month or two, their bright, warm hues will beckon an onslaught of sightseers.

Photo by Karen Shughart

Something about the light and the air bring visions of fall: bright, sunny days as crisp as biting into a just-picked apple.  It smells different, too. The air is perfumed, but in August, with a rich, heavy sweetness mingled with the beginnings of the decay that precedes fall and winter.

Later in the month, when the tourists and those who spend their summers at simple cottages here have gone, there’s silence  interrupted only by the occasional droning of a lawn mower,  the buzz of insects, the bark of a dog or the subdued chatter of friends and neighbors who pass by.