I am listening to the gurgle of rain as it slips into crevices in the earth and the eaves of my porch roof. The sound is gentle and soothing, fitting for a cold fall day with weather that makes you want to nestle under covers and dream of light.
I can hear the wind too, along with the blue jay, who both on occasion break through the steady pattern of rain so their voices can be heard. Inside my house, the furnace hums in the basement, reminding me of warmth, while the clock ticks away time. Just now, a flock of geese is harkening winter through the gray sky, but it soon passes.
Sound. Its vibrations bare the spectrum of extremes. I am trying to understand how our bodies learn to love and hate the music of sounds. How some sounds fill us with light, while others make us recoil in fear or loathing.
Over the past several weeks, I have born witness to the impact of sound on my 9 yr. old son. We are, it seems, living on the edge of extremes, any sudden variation in tone tipping the emotional weight of endurance inside of him. We are living in the breath of rain before it falls, wondering when each sound will shatter the surface of his body.
Because I understand what my son is going through, doesn’t make it easier. I don’t have the answer to peace for him. I cannot step inside his moment of intensity and turn on the silence he craves. Sound cannot always be stopped. Life must go on. Pets need to bathe themselves, meals need to be eaten.
When I was a child, my sensitive body would often recoil from unavoidable sounds. At night I would toss restlessly in my bed, stuffing pillows over ear plugs in an effort to block out the song of crickets outside my window and the chaotic symphony of my sister snoring in the bunk below me. During the daytime, it was usually my stepfather’s habitual sounds that would trigger me, tying my stomach into knots of swallowed rage. The piercing dissonance of his whistling, the near-constant clearing of phlegm from his throat…it was nearly insufferable for my young body.
Now, I watch my sensory sensitivity mirrored in my son, whose tolerance is even more fragile and volatile than his mother’s. I understand his suffering, but the magic cure to help him is eluding me. I learned early to suffer through sound by silencing my own voice. I see the irony in this as I write. Perhaps this is why I welcome, in some ways, my son’s outbursts of frustration with his noisy environment, knowing too well the consequence of swallowing voice.
I want to show my son that sound can be a balm. I want to show him how to push aside the barrier of resistance and open the door to joy, which is always waiting. Yet, this door is not always easy to open, I know. Sometimes, when I listen to someone chewing food, I can reach his or her place of inner joy, and my body will fill with the soft prickles of shared light. Other times, though, like my son, my skin recoils in irritation, and I find myself clenching my muscles in frustration. I am still learning that there is always light to be found within sounds. That we can reach that space between rain, or that space between the chewing of food and hold onto the silent music of peace.