Bicycling on a rural road near my home, I encountered the sound of the ubiquitous two stroke weed eater and saw a young farm worker clearing the grass along the fence line bordering the road. Sweat trickled down his face and his wet shirt clung to him as he swung the machine back and forth in wide arcs leaving a cloud of clippings strewn in his wake.
About a half mile further along, I happened upon an old farmer (old, being about my age) performing the same task but with a wood-handled scythe just as it had been done when he was a lad, younger than the one I’d just seen. The old man was in overalls with a long sleeved shirt and a broad brimmed hat. He moved easily, swinging the sharp blade out using its own weight to complete the arc, then pulling it back quickly with just enough angle for the blade to slice rather than beat, and the tall strands of grass fell neatly behind it. He was using muscle to do what the noisy little engine could accomplish, but he seemed to be working less hard than the boy.
I went back down the same road today. The space the boy cleared is covered in the brown clippings of dead grass spread thickly along the verge. Where the old man had worked his scythe, the long strands laid nicely in rows, still green for the moment.
Useful though they are, it is worth noting that the sound and fury of engines doing our work is another irritant laid upon the ears of each of us every day, the background noise of modern life. Experience and skill in a task done by hand lends an unhurried gracefulness to the accomplishment. And it is quiet