Why You Can’t Enjoy a Quiet Summer Afternoon in the Hudson Valley Anymore

“Disturbing the peace” has a different meaning for one Valley homeowner



Illustration by Chris Reed

Attention Hudson Valley residents: We’re being invaded!

Our backyards and patios, porches and hammocks, all outdoor venues are being overwhelmed and attacked by a force stronger than last summer’s 17-year cicadas, and more invasive than mold, asbestos, and those strange fumes seeping from your bedrock.

The culprit is decibilis americanas: noise, and lots of it.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the pattern: Step outside with a copy of a new best-seller. Find your favorite spot — out of the sun, comfy and cool. Take a sip of lemonade, open to the first page, and — wham! — your ears are assaulted by the snarl of a grass trimmer, or the crank and roar of a lawnmower.

Like clockwork, these attacks are launched during your nap, your evening swim, or while having dinner with grandma. The timing is sublime: With mood-altering precision, the quiet afternoon or gentle repose of twilight is suddenly and violently shattered by a man-made instrument of terror.

It could be a leaf-blower or a rattling lawnmower (either pushed or driven). It could be a radio blasting ear-shattering music with lyrics incomprehensible to the human species. Or fireworks — anytime before or after July Fourth — which jar you awake from a hammock-induced nap.

These occurrences are not rare; they disrupt the psyche with depressing regularity. It is an unwritten rule in the Valley — akin to the infamous “whatever line I choose at the cashier will be the longest wait” — that a neighbor will fire up his chainsaw or rev the motorcyle in his driveway at the precise moment when your burgers and hot dogs are done to perfection.

At these times — when my peace is shattered and my patience gone — in my mind I become a member of Green Peace. No, not that Green Peace, with environmental warriors climbing the bows of ships to save the whales; but a quiet warrior bent on ridding the neighborhood of the hammering, blowing, and senseless sawing.

In my mind, I’m a hammock-hopping good neighbor who sneaks onto verdant lawns and ebony driveways, holds his arms aloft and, by some force of nature or cancellation of time as we know it, makes Eden appear by creating gardens and lawns that will remain in their present, perfect state. The grass is always exactly two inches high, the shrubs never require pruning, and walkways and drives are eternally dust-free. And those wretched machines that generate all that noise and teeth-grinding lay dormant, their services to the multitudes rendered unnecessary. The only sound heard would be the slow, soft, rhythmic sighing of my neighbors and friends as their well-cushioned butts hit Adirondack chairs and they settle in to enjoy a fine weekend afternoon.

Abruptly, I’m awakened from this daydream by the howl of a hedge trimmer; decibilis americanas strikes again.

So the next time you retreat to the sanctity of your porch, patio, or hammock, be prepared for the neighbor with the loud lawnmower, the screeching tablesaw, or the deafening leaf-blower. They’re all out there, just waiting for the Hudson Valley to relax, rejuvenate — and retaliate. 

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