The Garden 3
It has rained and the garden is very wet. There are no crows. The only sound is a damp thickness of cricket sound, thick as an invisible soup through which my ears have to wade. As I become accustomed and tuned in to them, I hear they are not just an undifferentiated "them", but a symphonic multitude, a chorus of legions of crickets under blade and under leaf, under bush, and under tree. I will search and perhaps find none. I have searched before. Their communication ( I believe that we can make that assumption) has a comforting effect on my nervous system. Theirs is a soft blanketing sound, an unobtrusive blend with the soft swish of leaves in a soundless breeze. We hear the air’s effects. The effect of its movement on surrounding things. Everything is connected. Everything has an affect on something, or someone else.
I have heard myself claim to myself that if a garden sound is not beautiful, in the sense to which I have become accustomed by small song birds, then I would prefer it to be unobtrusive. That is to say banished.
Do I prefer unobtrusive people? Unobtrusive plants?
Last night’s dream wafts through my brain. An old woman dies of a cancerous clot in her throat. She cannot speak. I am watching from outside and I see there are many women dying, pale and silent. I watch them through the hospital glass, the same hospital where I gave birth decades ago. My baby, after the trauma of birth, after he took his first sip of milk from my breast, was taken away “to be cleaned up”. Before I could hold him again I saw him through the glass of the hospital “holding room” with other newborns who all appeared to be resting comfortably awaiting their reunion with their milky mothers. Can a room hold a child? The separation of the child from my breast was a wrench for me. What did he feel with that still milky smile on his lips? In the dream, I am looking through a similar hospital window. Only now instead of healthy babies, there are dying women, unable to speak. I am so sad. I want to hear their words, our words. I also wish to speak with them. I strain to hear through the glass. But I can hear nothing and I awaken to the sound of crickets.
Now I hear one crow, sounding like a rusty gate swinging on a hinge, then I hear another, but way off in the middle distance, unobtrusive. Am I pleased with myself and my garden cleansed of crows? What I feel instead is a flush of remorse. This is the remorse of awakening from waking dreams of grandiosity and power over. Power to banish, to cleanse the garden. The cricket thicket now blankets my head in a white hospital gauze. I am thoroughly wrapped in a gauze of cricket sound. Then the crow caws grow even fainter and disappear. I might hope to feel joy, but I feel only regret and sadness. I am annoyed with myself. I didn’t want their raucous percussion intruding in my garden, and now I seem to miss them when they are gone. Such is the wounded perversity of the human condition to lament what we have and to lament what we’ve lost.
A distant train squeals its mournful minor third into the sound space. I have learned to hear that interval as mournful and my mind’s teachings interpret and limit what my ears hear in intervals recognized by me, and the emotions I have learned accompany them. Why don’t trains sing major thirds? At least then, I could be unconsciously happy.
My garden. "My" garden. "My" children. What does it mean to say "my" garden, "my" children? What do we own or only have stewardship of on this planet? I am remembering a nurse who came into the hospital room after I delivered my child. I was tentative and nervous about how to hold his tiny head. As she was helping me, she said something about "your beautiful baby”. But as I gazed into his eyes, a voice from deep inside me spoke clearly to me as I recognized in her words a familiar way that we speak and think. "Do not say that he is 'mine'. I am only here to guide him on this planet for a while." Remembering those words has helped me at times over the years. "My" garden....
A lone cardinal chirps like claves in a percussion ensemble, a chirp that pleases me. How I love the high percussive chirp of the red and rainbow bird! Many cardinals are now chirping in antiphonal chorus. I am relieved by their energetic company. But with a new awareness, I grow tired of the sonic prejudices that bind me to a known world of sounds that I deem acceptable, and which I have been taught how to hear and how to respond emotionally. In defiance and longing, I find myself wishing to hear the crows again. Those big dark intruders on the periphery of acceptability. In what ways perhaps do I identify? -- psychological projection can unconsciously seek to banish others from the garden as we may feel banished or as we banish ourselves. Very often some of our deepest fears hide under these dank rocks.
A nuthatch beeps like a bicycle horn but I don’t see where the bird is. I hear only its sound. The beep reminds me of something I like. A bicycle? A memory associated with a bicycle? Oh, I see it now on the tree branch! Nuthatches are daring in their gravity-defying upside-down tightrope walking. They are small birds, painted in a bold swatch of Prussian blue, their white bellies led by their long beaks. The beeping of the nuthatch sounds a pattern not unlike the repeated monosyllabic words of human speech, making it familiar to my ear and to my autonomic nervous system that initiates a message passing judgment without my knowing. So I still find myself unconsciously gravitating to the familiar sounds that seduce me with their illusion of safety and security among creatures who talk like me. What languages do the plants use to speak to each other, to speak to the animals, to speak to us?
We are all drawn to beings that sound like us, aren’t we? What would it be? What would it be to find safety in difference? This is perhaps my heart’s deepest longing. My longing to mix among the world’s sentient and breathing creatures of radiant diversity in our raucous raw or sweet sound or silence. Might I some day find in the raucous rawness a sound sweet to my sonic palette? Or hear in the sweet a hidden raucous rawness? Or just hear and accept all sounds, silences, and beings as they are? Can I alter my sonic perception and sonic preference, sonic prejudice and sonic taste, with an adjustment of conscious and new learning that would inform my unconsciously limiting choices? We learn best when we are safe enough to learn. I hold my own hand as I step further into the garden.
And somewhere walking, sitting attentive to the ground, perched on the bench, in the woods, the meadow, or the garden, on the city street, in the air between tree branches, in the archway, in the rain, or shadow, or sun, you are also listening.