Stomach wriggles, typing keys, clock tick, magpies, train whistle, far drone of freeway. The click of the computer hitting the wooden desk because it wasn’t stable when I typed. A car going by the house and my shoes moving on the carpet when I shifted weight. The occasional rhythm of the computer’s backup and the house’s heating system blowing. All were constant or intermittent sounds in my study on a Monday morning.
I started listening to layers of sound when I was alone during a mountain walk a few years ago. I hadn’t run into anyone for half an hour and I noticed my human intrusion. Sight is my favored sensory reference, but as
I was walking along the trail through pines and aspens, I noticed the sound of my shoes making thudding, large noises. Then I heard my breath and the rub of shirt under my arms. I stopped and sat on a rock. Nothing but trees, dirt, and now I noticed, ants were about. At this point there wasn’t any mountain vista of the valley and I was unable to hear a mountain stream I had earlier seen. I noticed a bird, I heard another call behind me and then I saw a squirrel scamper up a tree, though it was silent. My body sounds of rubbing cloth, busy stomach, beating heart were diminishing, but felt noisy. The quiet had viscosity and my ears felt open, ready to drink, or let pour in, a near palpable un-sound. I haven’t any better words.
Since that day I have spent obscure moments counting layers of sound. During an autumn walk I heard two people lightly talking, the leaves scrunching under my feet, the hum of a neighborhood electrical substation, cars passing by and three dogs barking at me from different yards. Five layers.
While I was baking holiday cookies with friends I heard three female voices, scuffling feet, water from a faucet, background music, teaspoons clattering on a granite surface, swish of parchment paper being fitted, bubbling sugar, mixers whipping butter. Eight layers.
Noticing sound layers has made me pay attention to surrounding. Where I am and what I am doing. It has made me realize life’s simultaneous cacophony, and symphony. That every object has presence of self. Nothing is without voice. Occasionally paying conscious attention to sound is, I think, teaching me how to appreciate its presence as a oneness that allows me to maybe learn a little from the silence.
Los Angeles Equestrian Park
Voices Spanish and English
Horses, Quinn’s plea
Newspaper page turns
On hangers, brushes
Plastic jar of red licorice opened
Water coursing as brushed from shower on horse
Water in bucket
Clop of horse hooves on dirt can make whole world sound like a watermelon.