Homage To The Rain
Hesitantly, like a wanderer retracing footprints on once familiar ground, I lower my computer’s volume, shift my entranced attention elsewhere, and listen to the sounds outside. A return to nature, of sorts, if ever there’s been one in the modern age. My headphones succeed, sometimes too affectively, in making good on the manufacturer’s word. We buy them for their promises of noise-cancelation, isolation, or—if nothing else—a humble decibel’s worth of reduction. Life’s noises are nugatory in an over-stimulated world, or so the headphone has led us to believe. The day-to-day sounds, which surround and abound us, which we’ve deemed extraneous and undesired, really must be silenced.
Not only do we remit or omit the sounds—which you do depends on your headphones’ ability to censor and their cost (when one rises, so too does the other)—we replace them with something better. There’s always something to be heard more mellifluous than the everyday monotony. You can choose the digital rap of the shore while you walk through the city’s streets, or the synthesized sonata while you wait in line at the deli. We needn’t accept the daily auditory default; we have at our fingertips, in an endless digital disposal, the chance to pass our idle time with the ambiance of another; another time, another person, another place. The recording studio and its miniscule mp3 will blot out everything extra and take you where you’d rather be.
From time to time, I find myself caught between these virtual and visceral worlds, between sounds natural and newfangled. Like many others, technology has me in its grasp. And, again, like others, I’ve been abducted willingly. With my noise-canceling, isolating, reducing or whatever else you could call them headphones, I bask every day in my escape from the everyday. But, if like me you’re incautious, the synthesized tunes will subsume you. You might find yourself distanced from the original sounds of the world—the very sounds you seek.
I like to listen to rain falling, but it must be gentle. It also mustn’t be loud. It must drip and drip and drip at just the right clip—no faster, no slower. I’m quite particular about my precipitation. While I tap away on the keys, writing about the week’s issues, it’s the unhurried, melodic rainfall that puts me most at ease. A monsoon won’t do. Neither will a mist. The wind disturbs me and the thunder’s unnerving. A bird’s chirp is forbidden and a tree branch had better not break. My Hammurabi’s Code so too applies to any other unannounced, audible infiltrate.
It’s only a very specific rainfall cadence I’ll countenance. Somehow, I found online the perfect pacing and pitch. Never has there been a rainfall more smoothly sublime. It’s completely conducive to getting things done. It’s all the things I asked for above, and it’s available at any time. In one, ten-hour video, the conductor pieces together euphony and longevity that, when combined, transport me instantly to the forever wet American Northwest.
Hours in to the video’s loop, and paragraphs in to my story’s start, I needed to stand up and move around. My shoulders were slouching and so were my thoughts. I confronted the block that every writer knows and loathes too well. It’s that moment when inspiration, which so invigorates you at the start, gets replaced by improvisation before eventually desperation takes its turn. I removed my headphones—at this point essentially en-rooted in my anatomy—and corrected my posture. A writer’s spine can become disconcertingly accustomed to a chronic kyphosis; such is the expectation of a career spent leaning relentlessly over quills or keys.
I noticed, though, as I arose, I was not without the familiar sound. The headphones had since fallen and YouTube had been put to rest, but I was once again surrounded with the sound of rain falling down. This time, however, it was more intimate than before. No longer was I listening to a mere simulacrum. I had, for my own immediate senses to enjoy, nature’s symphony in its purest form at my door. For how many minutes was I contented at my computer blissfully unaware? For how long was I left remiss, not noticing Mother Nature’s gift? She had replaced reality for verisimilitude, and I might not have known it.
I realized then, like Whitman leaving behind the learned astronomer to stand on his own beneath stelliferous skies, that there’s no better antidote to anxiety, or writer’s block, or any other technologically-induced ailment than a brief re-acquaintance with nature. And you needn’t attempt an ascetic, Rousseauian return to nature, nor a Thoreauvian wanderlust to Walden Pond. Sometimes, you just need to detach and listen. Don’t be estranged from Earth’s ambiance. Don’t make forever secondary her geophony. Take your headphones off, set them down as I did, and allow her inconspicuous chorus to course through your soul.