When I was a little boy growing up in South Ozone Park, we had a tiny backyard between the house and the garage. When we moved in, it had a little lawn. Toy cars and monster trucks quickly turned that lawn to dirt. Then I added a few hundred little green soldiers to the landscape, and that necessitated the pushing around of that dirt to build foxholes and create hills to be “taken.” I loved playing in that backyard. Eventually, there wasn’t a blade of grass to be found. That yard looked like a lifeless piece of the lunar surface. My folks didn’t care. It kept me quiet.
Quiet was in short supply around the Paulson house. It seemed that Brother X and I always competed to see who could make the most noise. When I was just a rug-rat barely out of diapers, there was only one thing that kept me quiet. My mother would put two pots on the kitchen floor, along with a bag of onions. I would fill one pot with onions and then dump it into the other pot. Then I would pour them back into the first pot. This would continue until the onions were mushy and the entire house smelled like onions, but my Mom didn’t care about the odor. At least I was quiet.
Now, I have a back porch and a small yard. When I first got here it had one tree, one telephone pole, a brick patio, and four rose bushes. I have since added a bar (which I made from 63 empty kitty litter buckets and three full sized mirrors), a round table, a banquet table, three barstools, a half dozen plastic chairs, a grill, a “4-foot farm,” a reclining beach chair, wind chimes, solar lights, wind socks, artificial flowers, and butterflies, lots of butterflies. I have butterflies made of silk, plastic, and cardboard scattered all over the backyard. I call it Butterfly Alley.
My backyard is colorful and a great place to hang out. It reminds me of that place in my youth where I drove monster trucks and stormed San Juan Hill with all those green soldiers. I haven’t added any toy soldiers to the landscape here, but I have tossed quite a few “dead soldier” into the recycling bucket near the bar. I have a radio back there, but I often go into the yard just to spend some quiet time.
So, instead of playing soldier or digging in the dirt, I mostly relax with a beer and watch nature. The first thing I noticed were the bees. They were attracted to the big yellow butterflies, not the green, pink or blue ones, just the yellow ones. They would literally make a beeline to the yellow butterflies. I witnessed their joyful rush and then the shrug of disappointment when the bees realize that what they thought was a giant yellow flower turned out to be nothing but a polyester butterfly. It may be nice and colorful for humans, but, to a bee, it’s a big waste of time.
The next bugs I noticed were flies. Spending so much time indoors at my computer, I had almost forgotten about them. Unlike the bees, who would leave me alone while they went around looking for yellow flowers, the flies seemed bent on annoying me. So I went back inside, to my computer to Google a solution. It seems that they hate cayenne pepper. So, I went back outside with a solution of water and cayenne pepper that I sprayed everywhere. That helped a little. Then I just started sprinkling straight cayenne pepper around like I was seasoning my porch for a barbecue. That got rid of almost all of them. There are still a couple around, though. They must have flown here from Mexico.
I’ve also got fireflies, who just flutter around blinking their tails to get attention. They remind me of those small planes you see at the beach flying slowly pulling advertisements. I’ve got strings of blinking lights hung up around the yard that are solar powered and come on when it starts getting dark. The blinking lights really attract fireflies. They must think they’re seeing the Promised Land. The local fireflies now start to gather in my backyard every night a little before dusk. Then, when my solar lights start blinking they act like it’s a 4th of July fireworks display.
It’s funny the things you notice, when you’re just being quiet. Now I understand why my Mom loved quiet time so much. That gene is finally kicking in.
Peace & Love, and all of the above.