Sunday, February 12, 2012


The highway parts the landscape, stretching long in front of me. This kids are quiet, wrapped up in a movie. There's nothing else for me to do but stare straight ahead -- I am sure I will get some thinking done during this drive. The conditions are nearly perfect for netting at least some of the pictures and emotions and story debris that have been floating in my head like dust motes in the sun, the kind that you think you could catch between thumb and forefinger but scatter in the slightest draft. It doesn't matter how slowly you move.

But I keep singing that annoying song in my head and replaying scenes from earlier in the day or week. I think about baby names and how cold my feet feel. Snippets of too-familiar movie lines waft my way. I glance at the kids in the rearview and my mind wanders over the mundane and through the woods, to grandma's house we go.

I drop the kids off and imagine that the drive home will be more productive. There's a story character I've been trying to get to know and I can't quite see her face yet. I'm sure she'll turn and talk to me now that the car is silent and I'm alone at last.

But she doesn't.

There's nothing. No voices but my own, telling me things I already know.

Perhaps I've been trying to hard, I think to myself. Watching a pot that's not ready to boil?

So I search around instead for the dimmer switch, the one that settles my mental chatter and dusts a whispering of hush across my inner landscape. It's hard to find at first and I have to fix my attention on it fairly often to keep the volume down this low, but it works.

I never do talk to my character but I watch the orange orb of a sun lower itself inch by inch in the sky until the horizon finally swallows it whole, a piece of butterscotch candy for the night to suck on. It's big enough to last till dawn, when he has to spit it out.

The sky's cheeks blush pink then purple before draining to darkness. And even though I can't really hear it, the earth hums with the realness of the scene before me, a symphony singing just above the highest octave my ears can catch. But I can feel it. The vibrations touch then penetrate the space between my eyes.


The bacon sizzles and crackles -- it needs to be flipped. The waffle iron flashes its green light: another two are done. I put the warm cinnamon rolls on the table and declare them ready before remembering to set out plates or put syrup and powdered sugar in neat little bowls. Someone asks for a fork. I realize I forgot to offer cups. This isn't quite as organized as I had envisioned, but no one seems to mind.

One neighbor tells me that she knows she exudes frantic energy in situations like this. But it feels calm in here, she smiles.

I had thought perhaps my head was spinning on my shoulders and that maybe everyone heard the sizzling not as the bacon cooking but as my nerves frying. But maybe I'm humming calm more than I realize, even in the middle of chaos. If I can do it in the kitchen, making my version of our rotating neighbors' brunch, maybe I can do it anytime. When the toddler whines or the preschooler throws a fit or the biggest girl talks back and back and back. Maybe when it's all happening at once. While I'm making dinner. And even when the not-yet-here newborn is crying, too?

Well, we'll see. I'm hanging on to the idea, though. Humming calm. I can do that.


A pair of geese rest on top of the frozen stream. One sleeps, head under wing, while the other follows me and the dog with its eyes, wary.

My feet crunch over the uneven ice and snow. My jacket swishes with every movement of my upper body. I am anything but quiet. Sneaking and stealth are impossible today, even if I tried.

Some birds sing but their voices are lost to me, buried under layers of my own noise. But still, I feel the hum all around me. In the sharp staccato of that goose's glare, warning me away. In the low, weak sighs of a forest of trees almost ready to wake up. And in the billion, tinkling notes of the sun glancing off the snow.

The wind numbs my cheeks. My own footfalls mute every other sound. But I walk through a world of music.

Everything is humming. Perhaps never audibly. But it's palpable, if you hold out your palms.