One of the things I’m always thinking about doing is going outdoors on a nice day for the sole purpose of getting comfortable somewhere and reading for a while. Perhaps taking a little nap, or just listening and watching what’s going on around me. Sometimes I manage to make time for this type of behavior when I’m camping, but it’s something I enjoy doing and would like to build some of that type of entertainment into my local life.
I’ve been sick for two weeks. Today was my last day staying home, and my only goals for the day were to a) walk to the dumpster, b) walk to the mailbox, and c) drive to the library. I succeeded in all three, and after picking up my library books I decided to rip a page out of my sister’s play book: I drove down to historic St. Mary’s City and wandered down to the river, all by myself. I found a picnic table in the weak January sunshine, and spent a half an hour perusing through a book of poetry. I don’t often read poems; I find that I don’t “get” most of them. However, I figure that for me, poetry is kind of like trying foods that you think you don’t like: I have to re-try them every once in a while just to make sure my stance on them hasn’t changed.
So there’s me, sitting quietly and trying to make sense of the not-at-all-concrete imagery, when all of the sudden the sound of the waves breaking on the rocky shore became so loud I couldn’t hear the words in my mind. I looked up — obviously I’d completely missed hearing a boat pass by, but the change in the cadence and pitch of the water smacking the land was something I could not ignore.
“How absurd. I must really be oblivious!” I thought. “I wasn’t that absorbed in the poem, was I?!”
Yet as I watched the shoreline the sound grew and then slaked off, only to grow again. Something about the way that the boat pressed the water into that angle of pebbles and sand had created this noisy, rolling, organic crunch of sound that demanded to be heard.
I reached for my cell phone in order to catch a bit of it on film, but like an actress with stage fright, the drama ceased the minute I pressed RECORD. What I was able to catch to remember this moment — where the earth and sea worked together to demand my attention — was simply a rather benign vignette of nature demonstrating surround sound: waves reaching in from the left and wiping a whoosh of sound over to the right.
Closing the book and placing it in the pocket of my sweatshirt, I answered nature’s call by giving it my full attention. And within my listening, I felt heard.