2 October 2010
My mother died on this day 30 years ago.
Being alone in Colorado during the day.
When I’m in Pittsburgh I’m immersed in noise. City noise–boom boxes and explosive car radios, trash trucks, jack hammers, car alarms, planes, helicopters, that incredibly irritating back-up sound that goes Beep, Beep, Beep, insanely, driving you insane; trucks driving or idling, for no apparent reason, buses, motorcycles, leaf blowers, people walking down the street who converse by shouting at one another from either side of the road. In the 19th century the steam engine was thought to be a kind of devil, roaring through the world and practically tearing people’s ears off. But it seems to me that the devils of the 20th and early 21st centuries are machines powered by gasoline.
When I “relax” I turn on the television, usually quite loud so that I can hear it over the noise in my neighborhood, and when I go “out” to “relax” and have a drink, I go into a bar where there is usually a television blaring or music drowning out the silence that city people have apparently no ability to deal with. And speaking of bars. It’s annoying enough that there is a television to deal with, but what I don’t understand is why the t.v. always has to be tuned to golf or baseball or football? Why can’t it be Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Six Feet Under or Battlestar Galactica? Let it be CNN or even that republican machine, Fox News. Are city bars only populated by sports fans?
But here, where I am now, I hear virtually nothing but the sound of my own breathing, the dogs, three of them, following me here and there, their panting, the cat meowing to be let in the door that he knows he doesn’t usually go through, the wind, if there is any, the very rare car passing by. If I want to hear something, I can play something on my computer, through itunes. There’s a t.v. here but nothing on. Nothing means: nothing I care to watch or listen to. And the radio isn’t much better. Colorado stations seem to feature NPR most hours of the week, but so much of that programming seems to have to do with authors excessively pleased with themselves, who really don’t have that much to say, in fact. Or that idiotic program, Car Talk, with the brothers whose laughter is so obviously forced it grates. They don’t laugh because they’re amused, but rather because they’re uncomfortable. Or so it sounds. Why would anyone want to listen to the sound of forced, uncomfortable laughter, when one could listen to silence in one’s car or house?
But how rare is it to “hear” silence, to be able to think for one’s self, in quietude? We live in cacophony and wonder why it is that we are continually getting sick from “stress.”
I’m not lonely. There are three dogs here–Bear, Blackjack, and Kea, in order of importance. Bear is a good friend, even though he begs too much. Blackjack snores in his sleep and I find the sound comforting. Kea is always way more excited to see me that I think she will be.
I love being able to do exactly what I feel like doing. I can walk, dance, cook, and drink. I drink as much wine as I feel like drinking. I’ve been cooking a lot and finding that I have lost my taste for meat. It is good to be alone; to be with myself for an extended period of time, in the quiet, without a schedule, without quantification, just being. I go to be around 8:30 and get up at 5 or 6. I live as I want to. It is wonderful.
Being alone in Colorado at night.
I had to go to Hotchkiss this afternoon and didn’t turn back until after dark. Halfway home I stopped along the road, turned off the engine and the lights, and got out to look at the sky. A dog at a nearby farm was barking but it fell silent. So many stars. It had been a long time since I had seen the Milky Way.
It’s hard to comprehend how we could be “in there” when, from earth, it looks as though it is “up” or “out there.” And when I remember that it is not a water-cloud, but a star-cloud, and that the opacity of “out there” is more or less how our “over here” looks to the beings on that side of the galaxy, it’s harder to grasp.
Is it like the relationship between Self and Other? We dismiss or underestimate or simply forget about or try to kill the Other because it is other, because we can’t stand the difference in the color of their skin, or the way they eat, or walk, or express affection, or believe, or vote, or fish. What we’re missing out on when we allow these differences between to divide us is that we are not “here” and “there” but, rather, together, bound up in the same web, the same world. There’s a German word for this, mitsein. It means “being with” So, it is possible to say, in German, not only “ich bin,” I am, which is a pretty powerful thing to say, actually. But it is also possible to say “ich bin mit,” I am with.
As I got back on the road I thought about how insignificant I was, in my tiny little car, soft flesh clothed in an exoskeloton driving along on a capillary. So often I think of myself as the center of the universe, a “me” an individual, isolated sun, and that what I am doing is of infinite importance, and must come before all other things. The sky above seemed so vast, so much greater than this personal scenario, this whole world. But then I thought about the complexity beneath the tires on the road, and beneath and beside the road, all the birds and skunks and snakes and lizards and toads, and the insects that they eat, and the hives and burrows that the creatures build, and the thread-like paths that ants leave, and the smaller ones, the mites, the tiny larvae, all busily going about and around And then I thought about smaller things that you can only see under microscopes, and all the organisms that make up dirt, in which the plants grow. So I felt better.
And when I got home the three dogs were so happy to see me they danced. Blackjack ran around the yard with his enormous teddy bear in his mouth, and Kea wagged her whole back body at me, and Bear was love-dumb as always. I laughed at them and said, “Hello, Friends!”