Except in winter, my windows are open in the Hour of the Wolf, and my ears are too. My eyes are resolutely shut. There is a game to be played, around how much detail one can glean from just a single sense over time. How are the ears able to distinguish so much, when at bottom it's all just patterns of vibration in the air?
It's a mere 11 miles WSW of downtown Boston where I sleep, when I do sleep, so hardly the forest primeval. But there is a war that ebbs and flows between the natural and the unnatural even here, in hard-core suburbia.
Sometimes things are truly still. It is a stillness that neither penetrates nor soothes me. I don't like it.
If all else fails and in due time, the birds. Leonard Cohen said They will sing, at the break of day. "Start again!" I hear them say!
But my birds begin to sing well before dawn. Does one species start the cacophony rudely, by waking the others?
Only from high summer on through the fall, the crickets. I applaud them for breaking the stillness throughout the night.
Most welcome of natural sounds is the first distant rumble of thunder in the southwest. It's an unfailing prediction. The storm never seems to circle away. If you hear it coming, it will come, with a powerful wind and rain, and the rain will seem to wash away every other sound as well as all of the detritus on the street, with a vengeance.
With eyes open there is a tree that can be seen, but only from my home office. It is in the shape of a majestic tuning fork. A single trunk rises to about 30 feet, where it splits in two and rises another hundred in perfect parallel, and straight up all the way. When the wind comes without the rain and thunder, I imagine it amplifying the howl. The Tuning Fork Tree.
The prevailing wind in summer is from the southwest, which is propitious insofar as it pushes away from us the noise of the old Boston to Albany and Points West thoroughfare that lies less than 1000 feet to our north -- Rte 9.
Even a gentle breeze from the north conspires to carry towards us all manner of unnatural sounds, some pleasant, some not so. The "bell" tolling each hour from a belfry not far from where the cops shot and killed that crazy kid brandishing a knife and threatening his landlady -- the proprietor of the candy store. There is no bell of course; it's synthetic, and maybe the balm it gives my nerves is synthetic too.
Planes, trains and automobiles. The occasional low-flying commercial jet, in the wide pattern that ends with wheels touching down on Logan Runway 4R, which is to say with the plane's compass showing a heading of 40 degs, only used when the wind is from the north or the northeast. The repeating whine of the whistle of a freight train, also rare (it's not the Midwest), straight from central casting. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. The exhaust back pressure of a semi, decelerating to a stop at Chestnut Hill. And more often than I would like, at 2AM or 3AM, a couple of Ducatis, fearless of the cops, ripping through the gears in a race that I can hear all the way to the Brookline Reservoir. Some night they'll say that there's nothin' left but blood where the bodies fell, that is nothin' left that you could sell. Just junk all across the horizon -- a real Highwaymen's Farewell.
If there were a yogi lying in bed beside me, she would, no doubt, hear something more -- a low, constant, even physical hum. The Vibration of All of Creation. The sound that sounds, according to the Zen masters, when there is no sound.
It's not that I am too crass to listen for it. Rather, it has a built-in filter so that it will not reach, nor be tainted by, the unenlightened.