Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

The Sounds of Silence is an old song, written in 1964 by Paul Simon and performed by the duo Simon and Garfunkel.

I was 5 in 1964. As you can imagine the song had no meaning for me then. Not that I didn’t like it, quite the contrary, I loved it. The reason it had no meaning was that to a five year old, especially one being raised in a house with seven siblings, assorted pets of all descriptions, next door to an Army  post and across the street from a federal penitentiary silence was an impossible concept to grasp. It was that sweet few seconds between being awake and being in the deep, dreamless state of utter innocence and vulnerability obtained only by small children after hours of play.

Once I grew into an adult, or thought I had at the ripe old age of 17, The term took on a new meaning for me. I was riding my bike one day and came around a corner and saw for the first time the glory of the world we live in and the faintest possibility of a larger picture than that populated by me, myself and I. In retrospect it was just a stunted tree after a heavy rain in a neglected lot but I saw, and heard, so much more than that. A single ray of brilliant sunshine shone right on that crooked, crippled tree. The few first leaves of dawning spring were budding and caught the light in their perfect diamonds of raindrops and came back at me, soft, vibrant, ethereal. A green glow seemed to hang around that tree, welcoming the voices of a thousand angels and the earth shattering chaos of the universe.

From that time forward, the sounds of silence for me were owls hunting in tandem in the night, woodpeckers banging out a rhythm all their own on the chimney hood, the non-sound of a thousand monarchs fluttering around my little piece of heaven on earth, tomatoes swelling from their buds, water running over rocks smoothed by an eternity of liquid friction. The soft sound of a newborns’ breath against my chest, the gasp as children saw for themselves the glory of the world around them and the joy that was there for their taking. Nature, the stars, the moon, the fates all called to me and made me feel impossibly small, and impossibly blessed.

Now that I am well entrenched in middle age I am finding yet another meaning, a new level of sound, sweeter still but oh so hard to take. The Sounds of Silence now are echoes of sounds once heard. Some, the sound of fat bare feet running on asphalt, or giggles behind closed doors when it is supposed to be bed time, or four children and a hundred pound dog all crammed in the back of a car meant to seat five singing (and howling) along with their father at full throttle to John Anderson’s Seminole Wind while the sweet summer heat brings the smell of honeysuckle rushing into the open windows on a country road.

To hear the melody of these memories I must also listen to the others, to the sharp crack and loud cries of tortured anguish that followed, to the sirens, to the doctors, to the sound of traffic roaring by on the highway while I wonder what the hell could ever come after this moment in time.

I choose to hear them all.