Sounds / Staff Picks

The Art Of Listening During A Rainstorm

raindropThere is an art to it, listening during a rainstorm. It reminds me of the earliest poem I remember writing, which could be categorized as the first poem I ever put critical thought into and originally composed (minus Roses are Red…). I remember putting so much work into it for being in third grade. We were supposed write in a style reminiscent of Shel Silverstein, playing with sound and basic narrative in the haiku form.

Here is the poem:

Drip Drop on my roof

Plip Plop in the gutter

Flip Flop trapped inside

Pitter-Patter–that rhythmic flooding on the roof, in the gutter, sliding down the street–reminds us to be more, to observe pattern and calm. It’s that type of weather in which we read a book, nap, or just relax. Some people hate this weather because there’s nothing to do.

So, close your eyes the next time that it rains and listen. The sounds of cars on the road, over the landscape, the jackhammers, the people talking in the next room, the TV blaring… These sounds now have no identity. Listen for rhythm. Find a pattern. Be mindful of its flow, this other way of listening.

That nothing to do/silence is the narrative, how the arc of space is vessel for time, rhythm, matter, being…

It is a struggle to maintain mindfulness of the self, of the mundane, the matter, the sounds of cars on the road, the jackhammers, the people talking in the next room, the TV blaring. Mindfulness may be perceived as truly being within the self and with the mundane, the actions of things, others, and our thoughts. It’s not allowing our minds to deviate from thing to thing and to lose time, to lose our consciousness to multiple divisions as we try to focus on just that one thing, like the eye does when taking in an experience. When we notice one thing, we notice it, we acknowledge this thing, it becomes part of our consciousness, and we have to find somewhere to put it within the beautiful ruckus of ourselves.

Thich Naht Hanh who wrote The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation (translated by Mobi Ho) notes that “For those that are just beginning to practice [mindfulness], it is best to maintain a spirit of silence….You can talk, you can go ahead and sing, but if you talk or sing, do it in complete mindfulness of what you are saying or singing….Naturally, it is possible to sing and practice mindfulness at the same time, just as long as one is conscious of the fact that one is singing and aware of what one is singing. But be warned that is much easier, when singing or talking, to stray from mindfulness if your meditation strength is still weak.”

Hanh goes on to describe being mindful during a day of chores in this way. He is right, though; it’s very easy to misplace this calm awareness of ourselves, this center, this stillness, this space. Yet, also, this… separateness done within this simple idea. Definition.

raintrailsBegin with listening. Listen not to or for but WITH rhythm, for pattern, for flow, the movement of the arc within space. Zero in on the singular beauty of sounds—the drip drop, plip plop, flip flop. It’s similar to our own existence, the tiny drop in the ocean, and what a gorgeous and scary-seeming fall we have to the deep.

When the rain stops, bathe. When you wash your hair, rest your ears beneath the water and let the air pop out until they are filled, and the sounds of your toes shifting, sloshing water has that other sound. Your mouth is still above the line of water. Speak. Sink. Sing. Let your body move and then still it. Imagine if we listened like this with our ears….out of water, but like we’re still in water. There’s a sense of wonder, how all the small sounds seem so much bigger, though they lose their usual definitions of “jackhammer” and “annoying neighbor please stop cackling.”

Recall how precise Beethoven was in the way that he listened and composed. Yes, that.

That listening.

Imagine sounds, sound beyond the name of “rain,” the sound that occurs from collision, from something happening in the silence. Patterns give us placement. We are something happening within the silence. We find familiarity this way, in patterns. Some sounds produce a lovely harmony with the melodic rain falling and others produce a horrid discordance within the ear. At best, we find a poignant dissonance. The stillness, the silence, the sound, the noun, the definition, the pattern: Each has an affect we can appreciate. And so we have the beautiful ruckus, the balance: the being, the act of being. The arc within the narrative.

I practice listening to the everyday, and this cacophony is a symphony that reminds me of the art of listening during a rainstorm, the beautiful ruckus of being.

Images: Tiffany Chaney at Three Path Thinking.

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Tiffany Chaney is a poet, a witchy woman that still swings on the swing set and wishes on stars. She paints naked and non-naked things, which are basically still naked. Snag a tarot reading, Between Blue and Grey (her first poetry collection), branding materials, and other things here.

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