The Strauss Strategy

The warnings were in place the night before. By morning the threat was clear. Trouble was on the way. Mid-afternoon the target.

Surviving the onslaught was not the worry. We had been through this enough to know how to minimize damage to hearth and home. It was keeping those in our care calm in the midst of the rampage that weighed heavily on our thoughts as morning ebbed away, and the blitzkrieg advanced. The nearer drew the maelstrom, the more I considered a distraction that had shown promise once before. The Strauss Strategy, named for the man instrumental in creating the tools that might keep panic at bay.

Timing would be critical. Too late, and the Strauss Strategy would only add to a sense of chaos. Too early, it would become the baseline of consciousness, and lose its power of distraction. So it was that I carefully monitored the advance reports, ready to unleash the plan at the precise moment of maximum effect.

There was no mistaking the launch. The air was electric. The impending attack pressed against us in a manner that was extra-sensory. This was it! The tools were in place. All that was needed was the touch of a button. I looked into the trusting faces of our charges, smiled in what I hoped was a reassuring way, placed my finger on the screen, and tapped.

Immediately the air was filled with the opening orchestral salvo of “Voices Of Spring” by Johann Strauss II, followed by the lilting, sweeping melody and bass-punctuated beat (“ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three…). Outside, seemingly in synch with the commencement of the 1882 waltz, the forecast early spring storm broke with a fury. A quick adjustment of sound system volume, and the composition soared just above the tempest beyond the shuttered windows. Inside, Jessie and Max, both highly sound-sensitive dogs easily panicked by thunderstorms, rested comfortably, if ever-so-slightly on edge. Rumbles of thunder melded with tympanic musical crescendos. The thunderphobes appeared to know something ominous was afoot, but what was it, exactly? One piece flowed into the next. “Morning Papers” became “On The Beautiful Blue Danube”. “Tales From The Vienna Woods” turned into the perfect “Thunder And Lightning Polka”. The dogs were kept just enough off balance and confused that fear could not take hold.

After 5 or 6 pieces we began to notice a lightening around the window blinds. Lowering the stereo volume we could tell that the maelstrom had lumbered out of the dogs’ alarm zone.

“Wow! That worked pretty well, but I have to tell you; I was getting mighty tired of Strauss Waltzes toward the end!”, my wife said.

“Count yourself lucky”, I offered with a grin, “The John Phillip Souza Scheme was on the drawing board, too!”

After a moments reflection she nodded in agreement. Next time, though, maybe I can offer a sonic distraction that would be more universally appreciated. There are plenty of choices; the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, “1812 Overture (with cannons!)”, Wagner’s “Ride Of The Valkyries”. But I think maybe next time I’ll see how John Bonham’s bombastic drumming stands up against nature, and put together a Led Zeppelin playlist. “It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled…”

Rumble At Land’s End

I live at the eastern edge of the North American continent, about one-eighth of a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. I take no pride, and very little pleasure from that fact, but that’s another story for another time. What is notable in the present moment is that my area is recovering from a N’or Easter that has riled up the Big Water. When that happens it sounds as if the busiest airport on the planet is right next door. I can feel it through the sand beneath my feet. While out with the dogs in the pre-dawn darkness, that roar made me feel very small and vulnerable; such a powerful and inhospitable expanse so close by. And then from there my thoughts evolved to take in the unimaginable vastness of the Universe just beyond the thin veneer of atmosphere above me, and I welcomed the inrushing sense of insignificance.

A phone video of Maxx in the darkness this morning with the ocean roar (pitifully rendered by this medium) drowning all other sound.