Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm Just a Sensory Refugee in a Land Use Wasteland

I hear peepers and whippoorwills.  At least I think I do.  Sitting in the recliner in my living room with the windows open I can hear the night sounds over Hatton Creek.  Under all of the other noise I can still hear the peeps and whips.  Barely.

Some knucklehead was still mowing a half hour after dark.  Cars speed up and down the road that has—in recent years—far exceeded its capacity.  Like most of the other roads in the area it was probably built in its “modern” form during the WPA days of the New Deal.  Neglected dogs bark against their leashes and through their cages. 

Idiots on ATVs ride aimlessly up and down both the minor county road next to our house and the main county road in front of the house in defiance of state law.  A few years ago I had to sign saying I was okay with the conversion of the road beside the house from a long private drive to a county maintained road.  In hindsight…

It’s bad enough that we’re surrounded by people so unimaginative that all they can think of to do for entertainment is ride ceaselessly up and down the road on side-by-side ATVs burning up gallons and gallons of gas (TEXTING ALL THE WHILE!!!).  And when we’ve had enough and flag them down to ask them to stop they become surly.  As if our rudeness was unjustified.

There was a time when I felt like Hatton Creek was a peaceful refuge. It was a place I could retreat to escape from noise and movement and tension.  Now there are far too many people living in this drainage.  It’s not just a few large families but instead there’s a large number of families of only a few each and it seems like there’s an SOV for everyone.  My elder family has sold off many lots to endure long retirements.  The noise pollution from the scab subdivision down along the creek alone is enough to make the ears twitch.

No longer are my grandparents the only ones living up in the holler.  Traffic up and down their road (formerly the driveway) never seems to stop.  The ATVs keep circling our house.  I keep gritting my teeth.  I fantasize darkly about putting an 8mm round through the engine of each one that passes.

I’d hoped by moving back into this place where we didn’t want to be (everyone assured us that many of the negative aspects had changed while we were away) that I could at least have some space from the sensory overload that is modern civilization.  But it doesn’t seem as if that’s going to be possible.  My options are limited.

Used to if you were really quiet and held your breath you could hear the sporadic hum of traffic on the Mountain Parkway off in the distance.  These days all of the local traffic drowns it out.  When I was a kid it was pretty safe to just play in the road out front.  I learned to ride my bike by coasting down this yard and crashing into the elevated roadway.  I forbid my own children to go near it except to get on the bus.

And even the former driveway (with three houses on it now) has too much traffic for me to feel 100% comfortable letting them play there.  I do, but I watch every vehicle going up or down like hawk, lecture ready to spout, fists clenched as I hear them approach until I see a mature and responsible speed traveled.  Like I said if I’d known a few years ago how much development would have occurred in such a short time all around me I would never have agreed to the paving of the road next to my house.  I’m a NIMBY that way.

I used to feel close to nature here.  I used to feel like Hatton Creek was mine to roam and to enjoy.  I used to know everyone that lived in this watershed.  That’s all gone.  And those I still know have thrown up walls of misunderstanding and resentment.  Nothing is easy.  No one is neighborly.  Family doesn’t seem so anymore.

At ten o’clock on a Sunday night most of the noises have died.  But then some penned-up dog begins barking and encroaching upon the few moments of peace.  Where its penned I once hiked out in the snow and built a small fire using primitive methods.  I used to go out and lay in the tall grass of that field looking up at the sky where lawn ornaments and neglected toys lay and where would-be suburbanites now act out the mundane drama of their lives.

Quietly I dream of being wealthy enough to own a large tract of land.  Large enough to hide the bodies of those who would trespass on my peace.  Large enough I could sit in the middle and pretend the apocalypse has come and convince myself until contrails split the sky and the dream overhead.

Mostly what destroys the peace of Hatton Creek is the grumble of motors and the growl of jackass knobby tires on asphalt.   No, your life choices are no imposition on me Mr. Redneck.   Not that you’d care.  That’s what “freedom’s” all about isn’t it?  Doing whatever you like regardless of how it impacts your neighbors.  Give me some more of that!

Give me more ATVs driven by children on public roads!  Give me more target-shooting in residential areas!  Give me more mowing and barking and traffic and blown transformers and ugly tract houses!  Give them to me until I can’t stand anymore.

I’m too young to be that guy…y’know, the one grumbling at all the neighborhood kids to get off his yard.  But I’m fed up with the disrespect, the state of inconsiderate oblivion that most people move around in, and the thoughtless development that occurs for the sake of making a few quick bucks.

Maybe my contribution to society could be to get widespread buy-in for county-wide zoning…and then move away.  But zoning won’t bring back peaceful nights.  Zoning won’t keep rural areas from being developed.  Zoning won’t make me any less sensory defensive or less demophobic.  Zoning won’t make me like my neighbors any better, nor will it mend the rifts in my family.

In short, zoning won’t make any of us truly happy.  But as a Parthian Shot it could be very satisfying.

1 comment:

  1. I hear ya. The large tract of land "Large enough to hide the bodies..." Don't we all want that? :) I hope there can be some peace for you, but I'm afraid that it is hard to come by these days. I miss my time spent in the northern woods of Michigan where there was the peace of which you speak, but even that area has been encroached upon mightily.