Monday, July 04, 2005


It's been quiet. Not just earthquake quiet, although it has been that, but summer quiet.

That's a specific condition of Arcata, or so it seems. A small town to begin with, Arcata loses about half of its population in one day. Graduation day at Humboldt State University.

In the past several years HSU has made some attempts at becoming a year-round university but it's not working. Budget cuts impinge on new programs, but the general lack of summer jobs for students in the vicinity, plus the accelerated need for students to earn money in the summer to pay for the increased cost of college, has pretty much doomed the summer program so far. It gets quieter every year in the summer, but this summer it's been really quiet.

Less traffic in a place that doesn't know what real traffic is, shorter lines or none at the grocers and drug store, and just plain quiet---I am certainly not complaining. It becomes easier to relate to the aspects of this place that attract people here, that lovely irony. Because those are all quiet: the small sounds in the quiet of the woods, the quieting of automobile fumes that allows the fragrances of the flowers and plants to mingle and even reach the flayed nostrils of the thoroughly polluted human organisms that have lived so many decades being beaten senseless by noxious vapors. The quiet that lets the colors talk, the breeze sing, the eloquent quiet that somehow goes very well with the smell of tomato plants, and the symphony for clouds, bay and treetops.

They make noise down on the plaza on Saturdays and for the spate of festivals there, so it's not like we're deprived of music and the hum and buzz of humanity, should we choose it. And of course there are the regular sonic invasions by mechanized divisions of power mowers almost as large as the lawns they cut, and their infantry sporting the latest weed-whackers, which apparently kill plant life with noise volume and fumes.

And of course there is this weekend when some feel compelled to celebrate the signing of an eloquent founding document by detonating explosives. Fittingly perhaps, since it was such technology that partly allowed the conquest of the Indigenous peoples who furnished many of the ideas celebrated in that document. Unlike the movie everyone is supposed to see this weekend, the aliens won that one.

But there's let's say more quiet in the summer, it's not an absolute. But it is a joy.