projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
“This is a humming, buzzing world; we live in the midst of the ceaseless murmur of lives, a world of strange things whispering the poems of old Buddhas.” –Sallie Tisdale
This week I craved quiet. Maybe it’s the heat wave we’ve been in, the building up to it, the sweltering in it and then, hopefully, the sinking out of it. The heat brings a languor with it that my body likes as long as I’m not asked to do too much. A dump of fatiguing hormones kept me slow through most of my daytime hours yesterday. A broken AC at my office wiped my day out today. But even before the heat really started to stick, this need for quiet was with me.
After a Monday full of listening to friends and relatives with important things to share, my head was loud with other people’s lives. As I headed out to Elk Rock Garden to find some solitude, I turned off the radio in my car. I unplugged my phone so there was no music. I do this on occasion, but as I moved through traffic in my bubble of air-conditioned silence, it felt like a real solution. Less noise. More space.
I arrived at the garden and wandered fairly quickly through it’s green and dapple despite the fact that I’d never been there before. I didn’t plug in my headphones. I listened to the swoosh of cars in the distance, the swoosh of a jet boat in the Willamette below. The sprinklers hissed water onto the thirsty plants. A woman shouted encouragements to her aging relative from the top of some wobbly stone steps. Just a little further. Take it slow.
And then I drove home in the quiet. And I walked up Mt. Tabor in the quiet. And I’ve kept the radio off all week. I went to the gym and listened to my breath and the clank of weights, the usual blast of bad Top 40 radio mysteriously absent for once. I drove out to my hospice clients in silence and cultivated a bit of boredom as I did the dance of westside traffic. I paid attention to the different patterns of dirt and stickers on people’s cars and to how my body fit in the drivers seat. When the fatigue hit me, I paid attention to how my body felt in itself. I walked down the boulevard in the thick heat and watched everything and everyone and waited for language to describe it.
No language has arrived, but it feels clear that if it’s going to it won’t be from under the thump of music plugged into my head. It will come from the wide hum of the world shifting quick and slow and sideways all around and always.
Last night, for the first time, I dreamed my body could levitate and fly, really fly. No leap. No arms extended. It was difficult to leave the ground and maneuvering through the air, arms loose at my sides felt more like moving through water. Buoyancy. Resistance. I was trying to teach my friend how to do it and I kept whispering advice. Be very quiet, I told her. Listen. Follow.