Williams column: House energy wanes as the years march on

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 21, 2011

By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
There is a great deal of difference in the energy levels of occupied homes depending on the age of those who reside therein. The human energy gradient starts out supercharged at the beginning of life through years of childhood and early adulthood, decreasing, of course, with the passing of years. Putting it in the terms of the speeds of old vinyl records, the early years start out at 78 RPM, slowing to 45, becoming 331/3 in middle age, then steadily decreasing to 16 RPM in the later years. I just noticed a certain oppositeness in the old vinyl analogy, in that the highest numbers of speed correspond to the lowest numbers of years, and the highest numbers of years to the lowest numbers of speed.
There were many children in our neighborhood in the 1950s and ’60s. Sometimes, we would pool our individual energy into one spot, such as the Cline’s yard, playing neighborhood football games. I remember a group of us sledding in the Cline’s cow pasture, as well as there being snow fort construction and snowball fights in assorted neighborhood yards. In my memory is one particular snowball fight, complete with constructed snow forts on the Ritchie’s lawn. One kid from another home was including rocks as an ingredient in the making of his snowballs (perhaps he was just illustrating the definition of a comet:” a dirty snowball with ice and rock,” but then again, perhaps not).
Farther out from all of this youthful energy was a home which stood at the beginning edge of our immediate neighborhood. That threshold of our little community was marked by a curve in the Old Concord Road. To the best of my memory, the two elderly ladies who lived in that house were sisters. They were just as nice as the two elderly sisters in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” minus anything sinister, unlike the two in the Broadway play and movie.
The trees in our yard were large and blocked much of the sunlight; but the trunks and branches of the trees in that yard at the neighborhood’s perimeter seemed even greater in size. The extended twigs of each branch appeared to be more abundantly filled with leaves; plus there were the needles of some large pines, combining to block out even more of the sun and make that yard much more shaded than mine. In addition, I remember some bushes being present, which seemed to add further substance to the shadows falling on the ground.
I recall a daily exodus of the adults and children from many of those neighboring houses, that exodus being reversed at the end of the day. I have no recollection at all of ever seeing the two ladies out and about on their somber lawn. The energy level of their home differed greatly from that of the other homes in our neighborhood. I accompanied my mother there once on a visit.Those two elderly ladies seemed to be somewhat like fragile butterflies, which on cool, cloudy days do not flutter about, but instead, cling to leaves and branches in the shadows, their wings folded to conserve whatever energy remains within them.
In the current technology, used by both hunters, and soldiers on the battlefield, special night-vision scopes with heat- registering sensors are used to detect the presence of warmth, indicative of life. In a heat-sensing, night-vision device, most of the houses on our stretch of the Old Concord Road would have lit up like Fourth of July sparklers from the energy of the children inside their walls. If such a scope had been directed to the house at the neighborhood’s edge, I believe that life’s warm light would have barely registered.
There, in that house in the shadows, life’s energy, not very far from life’s end, seemed to be slowly and incrementally portioned out. It was as if each day’s allotment of that force were being measured in amounts almost as negligible as the energy found within folded butterfly wings on a cool, cloudy day.