Saturday, May 24, 2014
May Day Monkeymind
The other day I arrived to work an hour earlier than I was scheduled (I could swear they told me to come in at noon) and had sixty minutes to pass through before I could clock in. It just so happens that the shopping plaza hosting the grocery store I work at sits astride the Northwest Branch Anacostia River, and a stretch of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System runs along its banks.
I'm really enjoying my new digs in Maryland. I don't mind my job, I love my roommates, the neighborhood is lovely, and being able to walk five minutes to the Metro and take a twenty-minute ride to the Smithsonian and United States Botanic Garden is pretty fuckin' sweet.
The one thing I've really missed are the woods. My hometown in Jersey has a wonderful public park system; the Quaker center doubled as an arboretum, and it was a ten-minute walk from an impressive forest. Since I've been down here, I haven't found any open spaces I can reliably lose myself in (the unusual savagery of this last winter might have something to do with that), and so the hour I spent getting acquainted with a tributary of the Anacostia River was indescribably refreshing.
The storms of the previous day had swelled the river, and the water was running fierce and heavy. I took a seat on a boulder and listened to the crashing of the rapids.
"Crashing?" Is that the word for it?
"Crashing" implies a discrete impact; I don't think "crashing" aptly characterizes the sound I heard. Would it be "rushing?" I don't know—rushing describes movement, not sound. "Murmuring" and "babbling" don't touch it: both imply vocalization, and one suggests mutedness. "Splashing?" No: a frog hopping from a pond makes a splash; a tot in a kiddie pool splashes around. "Purling?" It comes closer in that it indeed does refer to the sound of running water, but gently running water. "Hissing" just means the sound of a voiceless alveolar sibilant, sustained for some time; and the sound I heard hissed and crashed, but neither word by itself approaches the sound to be signified.
Is there a word in English for the sound of water tumbling into water? The sound is unique, but I can't find a unique word describing it. And I'm sad for that because—aside from the cultural disinterestedness for an ancient natural phenomenon it would seem to indicate—that sound, whatever you'd call it, intoxicates me. I get lost in it.
But never lost enough, and especially not during my hour on the banks of the Northwest Branch Anacostia.
I wanted that sound to be the only sound I heard. I wanted to see nothing but the sun on the leaves and the ochre water and foam to. I wanted my experience of that moment to consist wholly of my immediate perception of it.
But there was just too much noise. Not in the environment, but in myself. I sat there and I was thinking about a bit that Brian Regan performed during one of his appearances on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. "Karma Police" by Radiohead was on loop in my auditory cortex. I was thinking about Mega Man 2 and (god help me) Final Fantasy XI. For a few minutes I was remembering my EDH deck and pondering how it might be tweaked with some cards from the new sets.
Noise. Noise noise noise noise noise noise noise.
Earworms. Brainworms, thoughtworms. A lifetime of speakers, screen, and games has filled my brain with niggling little parasites.
I'm still hearing these things, seeing them, and playing them, even when they're miles away. Even when I've turned them off in the physical world, they're still plugged in inside my brain, and I'm watching them, listening to them, and playing them even when what I want is to be doing is nothing but letting myself be wholly in the place that I am in the moment I am.
During that hour on that afternoon, if it were possible, I would have gone back in time and muted every speaker, switched off every screen, and walked away from every game if it meant I could have sat for just five minutes in the sun of a late spring and heard nothing beyond and nothing within myself but that primordial sound for which my language seems to have no name.