Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sound and Experience

When I close my eyes - here in this wood, near that stream, under this light canopy suspended by delicate aluminum poles - here in the dark, jacket and the socks I wore for pillow, when I close my eyes the world disappears. The wood and stream and tent and pillow: out. But not, like a candle, instant. I close my eyes and they dissolve slowly with my day and my tomorrow. They melt out of my mind as my aches melt from my body, and are replaced by

In the rafters of this place there is a tripping - a wash - a cacophonous rainbow of noise. An army of privateer mice simultaneously and incessantly sound the march on bells made of hollowed acorns. To my right, over the broad river, the frogs - the mice men’s warring cousins - thump a tinny response on lilly-pads with silver spoons.

Much closer, inches from my face, the suspended fabric resonates without rhythm. The vibrations are more than heard. The thump-thump, thumpthump,thump can be felt along the length of my naked body. A cool, cold noise welcome in the humid pre-summer night.

These, I thought, were all I could hear: the small army at war and the cold low beat, but I turned on my side and concentrating-intently I discovered one more Sound.

Quietly all around and under me, beneath the carpet out the door, beneath the floor inside, echoes a rustley shifting. An old man shuffles to church - slowly, patiently, trudging the old path, sliding footsteps through the leaves.

This is the rain, and these are a few of the oldest and best sounds in the world. A thousand years before a thousand years ago someone lay under a canopy in a wood near a stream and heard just the same things I hear tonight: The same tiny war, the same deep cold beat, the same old man shuffling through the leaves.

Like a child's first cry, this rain is the oldest and newest sound on earth. Its ancient ritual is verdant, fresh with new life. It is bitter with wild shock, and refreshing, calming, homely. It's worst gales are yet welcome.

Life is full of these tiny experiences: moments to, not merely cherish, but ardently pursue. This night, this rain, this experience is not an accident. It is a quest. These sounds are an elusive beast I've hunted and captured and will hold on to for the rest of my life. This memory is mine now. I will guard it jealously.

So I lay under my tent in the dark wood near a broad stream and listened. I waited intently for the warriors to begin the charge they were sounding, for the clash of mousy rapier on the toad's heavy staves. I resisted the cold beating at the edge of all my senses, and expected the ring of church bells, the end of the old man's ritual. But nothing changed until I slept.