09 September 2010

Sound and (Re)Vision

It's been a strange week here in the militantly bucolic Republic of Gumbostan.  A veritable seesaw of angst and elation, laced with a soupçon of contentedness, topped off with a small schmear of being completely in the middle of everything.  The crowning moment was the Mexican standoff in my backyard, between two cats and the rotund groundhog that lives under my shed.  The cats were crouched in the flowerbeds, triangulating on the shed.  The groundhog hardly dared to show his face.  It was so surreal I decided they deserved a toast in the form of a wee dram of Scotland's finest.*

Later, I decided to try a little experiment and turn off all noise-making devices.  More accurately, I turned off the noise-making portions of the devices.  This act of rebellion included the streaming audio on my trusty laptop**, which many of you may know is akin to taking away the cell phone from a securities trader.  I don't often do this.  Silence is something that I want and fear in equal measure.  Without aural input, I am too often forced to face up to the noise in my head.

As anyone who has been there can tell you, the noise in my head sometimes ain't pretty.

Tonight I felt the pull.  I was listening to the radio for a while but something clicked over and I was seized by a sudden desire for quiet.  It must have been the end result of excess input, where the desire for sonic rest overwhelmed my fear of listening to the "freq" in my head.  So off with the radio.  I picked up a book***, some cushions and headed put onto the porch to sit and exercise my eyeballs.

The weather here has been great this week, and today was the best yet.  I know some of my bloggy friends****  have been dealing with rain of Biblical ferocity, so I have been extra thankful that it has been so sunny and comfortable here just outside of Mobtown.  And the a/c is off tonight!  Extra special in the land of wet-hot-towel-around-the-face summer days.

Out on the porch, I sat and read my book, quietly, not unlike Ferdinand***** and his flowers.  The breeze was blowing and it was almost completely serene.  It was then I noticed more of the sounds I normally don't hear because I'm so busy listening to the radio or TV.  Crickets.  Birds.  Leaves brushing on leaves.  The faint sounds of traffic from nearby streets, which really were more soothing than annoying.

Later, inside the house, with the windows open,  I made a pot of tea.  The act itself was very Zen, charged with a 'wabi sabi' vibe running through it.  The simple acts of filling the pot with water and getting out the teabags (it was for a big pot of iced tea) had their own simple and unique sounds.  I especially enjoyed the dry crackle of the paper surrounding the tea bags.  It sounded just loud enough against the low hiss of the gas flame on the stove and the crickets outside.  It sounded like just what I needed.

So as I let the glass go empty, cocking an ear to the wind outside my window,  I felt my mind empty as well.  Not empty as in my brains fell out; empty as in cares and concerns, stresses and worries, thoughts collapsing under their own weight in such a huge pile, they drained away.
"The thirty spokes unite in the one center; but it is on the empty space for the axle that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out from the walls to form an apartment; but it is on the empty space that its use depends. Therefore, whatever has being is profitable, but what does not have being can be put to use."  (From the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, as translated by James Legge.)
This came back to me, in that moment of crumpling the tea bag papers in my hand.  The rasp, the crunch, the dry slither of the material on my fingers.  I tossed the ball of paper across the kitchen, aiming for the trashcan.  Watching it arc into the container, I knew in that instant, even of only for an instant, I had achieved peace of mind.

It was beautiful.

*In this case, represented by the Isle of Skye's gift to humanity, 10-year old Talisker.  C'est bon, c'est tout!  And to my friend Rich, he who bestowed upon me a generous gift in the form of 10-year old Laphroaig:  Just a little comparison tasting, to keep myself calibrated. Cheers!
**Surprisingly, the jonesin' isn't that bad.  I only shake...a little.

***"How to Read a French Fry" by Russ Parsons.  A good read, but it made me hungry. 
****Janie, Stiletto, here's hoping you weathered the storms! 
*****Ferdinand the Bull is probably my favorite childhood book, EVAH.  I have a copy that I read to Wee Lass almost every weekend she is with me, and sometimes she reads it to me.  I am blessed. 


  1. Lucky you. :)
    One day, some day, I ask you to try this silence thing when you live with your entire family. Grandmother, aunt, parents, sibling, uncle, uncle's wife, 6-year-old cousin. Until April this year, when my uncle and family moved out, I didn't know what it's like to sleep in, even on a Sunday.
    I come to an ultra-noisy workplace (I work for a newspaper, go figure!). Trawl through a very crowded city to get home. Sleep is my silence.

  2. A writer is one on whom nothing is wasted.

    Yep, nothing going to waste over here.

    (BTW -- my s-daughter went to Scotland last spring for a friend's wedding and brought back malt whiskey fudge. Whiskey. And fudge. It's like the two best foods in the world in one little package.)

  3. Ah, Irish, I crave the same silence.

    All the better to contemplate, my friend.


  4. I write better in silence and must have white noise to sleep.

  5. Ahhh Irish...no music!!!

    Mind you, I often write to the sounds of Tangerine Dream and Krafwerk?
    Perhaps madness is settling in or its as close to the sound of the world that I can find?!

  6. Silence is my favorite.

    Lovely day...

  7. If only such a thing (as in disconnection) were actually possible. I try. It's easy for me to lose the computer and often the musical ipod. But I haven't been able to shake off my phone yet with all it's Twitter yumminess. It's my one connection to a less (or maybe more?) messed up world than the one I live in.

    I'm vacationing solo in a few weeks back to my roots...maybe I should try this whole disconnect thing for real. It's sounds so peaceful and lovely.

  8. I don't often listen to music on radio or CD player but just Nature's music is fine with me.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...