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In tune with the rhythm of the world

Crickets chirping. Weed trimmers whirring. Just a general, hazy hum. Those are the sounds of September in Belmont.

Do you ever just take a few minutes to listen to the world around you?

If you do, I’m sure you’ve noticed that every season has its own “song.” In the spring, it might be dominated by the gentle sound of falling rain. In winter, sometimes it is a peculiar silence across newly fallen snow.

As summer winds down, you can almost hear the world drying out and preparing for the leaves to change and fall. Insects, including crickets, create a constant, rhythmic background noise that underlies everything I do, all day long. Neighbors all around are manicuring their properties yet again, probably wondering how many more times they will have to cut grass this year.

The sounds of those mowers and trimmers lead to another trait of late summer — the smell of fresh cut grass. That scent is slightly different at this time of year than in the early spring. Odors of dampness and a little underlying mud tend to be in the mix during April and May. In August and September, the smell reminds me more of hay, bright and fresh but still a little dry.

Many of the sights, sounds and smells of late summer and fall that we have come to love won’t be a part of life this year — or at least not as big a part as we’ve become accustomed to.

Nearly all of the annual events that we enjoy have been canceled or greatly scaled down. Only the junior fair portion of the Belmont County Fair will go on next week. The carnival rides and food vendors that attract so many of us to the fairgrounds will not be a part of that event this year.

Instead, the fair will consist mainly of 4-H project displays and animal showings. Sure, the familiar smell of the animal barns will be there, but that is not quite so appealing as the scent of funnel cakes frying and steak sandwiches on the grill. People who attend will hear the whinny of horses and the grunting of pigs, but the calls to try your hand at a game on the fairway and the buzz of the carnival rides will be absent.

Something similar is true in Barnesville, where the Pumpkin Festival is essentially canceled. Plans are being made to crown a King Pumpkin at an official weigh-in, but there will be no pageant to name a new royal court. The youngsters who were crowned last year will continue their reign. I believe some crafts will be available for sale on village streets during the last weekend of the month, but the festival as we know it will not move ahead.

While that may be disappointing, all of that is understandable. With reduced capacity, social distancing and face coverings, we have so far been able to send local children back to school. And, athletic teams have been able to play with some spectators on hand. A few months ago, I didn’t believe that would be possible.

COVID-19 has certainly disrupted life for just about everyone. Locally, store hours have been altered. Some businesses have closed, at least temporarily. Residents have changed their habits, making fewer trips to the store and hosting fewer gatherings.

Yet the world continues to turn. The insects and animals that live all around us are largely unphased by the pandemic. The natural order of things is still in place, and it is easy to see and hear if you pay attention.

Perhaps that is a really good idea. As we work from home, wear masks everywhere we go, refrain from going out for entertainment and avoid close contact with friends and family, it may seem as if nothing is normal — and that things might never be normal again. But all we have to do to counter that idea is look at the world around us.

Deer are still grazing in fields and along roadsides, especially in the evenings. Dogs still bark when something disturbs them at night. Cats still purr and rub against their owner’s legs when they arrive home. Birds are still singing and preparing to make their annual trip south.

The grass is still growing, and the moon is shining bright above us at night right now. Stars still twinkle in the night sky.

If you consider all of that, life isn’t really so different right now. We are battling an unseen enemy, and it can become frustrating. When we receive the good news that new cases of COVID-19 are declining in a particular area, it can make us wonder if all these precautions are really necessary. Why wear a mask, for example, to enter a locally owned store with only a handful of customers if only 30 people in the entire county have the disease?

The trouble is that we don’t really know how many people are infected. We can’t be sure who might be carrying the new coronavirus at any given time. Unless we have very carefully self-isolated for 14 days or more, we can’t be certain that we don’t have the infection ourselves, even if we don’t have any symptoms.

That is why I continue to wear a mask everywhere I go. That is why I don’t invite friends and family over for dinner or a cookout. It is why I haven’t done many of the things I enjoy this summer, and it is why I can accept that some of my favorite activities and events cannot be held as usual this year.

I want to be sure that if I do contract COVID-19 that I do everything I can to prevent spreading it to other people.

So, for now, I will try to be content with circumstances as they are. I will be grateful that I only know a few people who have come down with this potentially deadly illness, and I will continue to support the efforts of friends and family to protect themselves and others from infection.

Since I can’t stroll down crowded streets in Barnesville eating a sausage sandwich and chatting with people I know, I will find other ways to pass the time instead. I’ll try to make the most of the delicious foods growing in my garden, and I will soak up the relaxing atmosphere as we grill dinners on our deck.

I will appreciate the beauty of the animals that come and go from our property (as long as they aren’t munching on my garden). I will listen to the crickets and do my best to stay in tune with the rest of the world.

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