Background Noise

This time of year, the house is quiet. At least compared to the previous months. 

Warmer weather reduces the need for heating the house, so the pellet stoves isn’t running anymore. Neither is the furnace we use as backup. By the middle of May, we won’t notice this lack of sound, but right now it’s profound. 

I’ve noticed other background noises I used to take for granted that aren’t around this spring as the pandemic has altered our ways of living. Their absence makes me realize that certain things I thought I took for granted or didn’t care about still provided comfort and made things feel “normal.”

Baseball is the big one that comes to mind. I was never a fan of the sport. Aside from wearing a Yankees or Red Sox cap to try and fit in with others or attending a local minor league game once or twice a year, I never gave it much thought. (I do like A League of Their Own and The Sandlot, though. Does that count?)

Anyway, this morning I realized that I miss baseball as a signifier of spring and a backdrop of everyday life. Hearing the scores as I flip through radio stations. Seeing Paul F. Tompkins posting about games on Instagram. Hearing Jesse Thorn talk about different players on the Jordan Jesse Go podcast. 

This past weekend had another noticeable absence. There was no Vermont Maple Festival in St. Albans. The festival is usually a fun wake-up call after a long winter. This year we found ourselves rudely shaken awake weeks earlier by a nightmare in real life.

This year’s 54th annual Vermont Maple Festival would have been this past Friday through Sunday, but it was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cancelling was the right decision, certainly. And my festival attendance is spotty, at best, but it was sad and odd not to see the the obligatory news pieces about the festival on WCAX. 

If I went to the maple festival, it was usually the lure of food that attracted me. The first fried dough of the season, as well as maple cream donuts, maple creemees, and maple cotton candy. But for others, it was the parade, the art show, the pancake breakfast, the rides and games, the live music, or something other special thing. This year, the three days of Vermont Maple Festival weekend was just like every other day.

Speaking of springtime food, by now creemee stands are typically up and running around Vermont. (If you’re reading this in another state, creemees are probably referred to as soft serve ice cream.) A few creemee stands have quietly opened, but most haven’t. My two favorites – The Pine Cone Snack Bar in Berkshire, VT, and Cajun’s Snackbar in Lowell, VT, haven’t opened for business yet. 

Cajun’s is planning for Friday, May 1, to offer curbside service, and The Pine Cone is aiming for June 3. I hope they’re able to follow through and find success. 

Even on the days when I’m not stopping in for a black raspberry or a maple/vanilla mix creemee with chocolate sprinkles, it’s nice to drive by and see folks lined up and ordering. Maybe after a little league game or on a lunch break. 

There are so many quiet signifiers that fill our lives, gently pointing out that even when we’re having a bad day, life is mostly going on around us as usual. In the age of pandemic and quarantine and distancing, life as it used to be is over and won’t be coming back. As we find our way into and through a new way of living, we need to discover the background noise that will fill our days and let us know that even though we are on a new track, we haven’t completely derailed.

If you’ve got a new background noise in your life, I’d love to hear about it. Comment below or email me at

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