That Quiet Noise

It was a soft continuous rain going on all day and was very pleasing when all the other noise was eliminated. Then the trash man came around the corner and the minutes had to pass while he got finished with his work before the rain could be heard again. It took awhile because he was so loud and it’s a slow process — stopping, lifting, clanking, moving on down the length of the alley and around some corners and back up the main street parallel with the alley but in the opposite direction.

The rain might have stopped before he finished but it didn’t.

White noise is useful to cover something annoying or something that you don’t seem to notice until it stops and then it’s hard to understand how it was stood while it was going on if it’s unpleasant — like the motor of a vent fan or a hot water heater doing its thing heating up more water.

“Phew,” the mind says and the body relaxes having been unaware that it was tense while all that quiet noise was incessantly, though so vaguely and unappealingly present.

Meditation has one concentrate enough to grasp all those tiny sounds and pick them out separately from among each other — distant sounds too, like trucks on a freeway miles away — focus.

Trains are easy to pick out and a nuisance when close but somewhat pleasing at a far, far away distance. They can sound romantic that way — not so romantic if they’re far too close and continuous but intermittently unpredictable all day long.

It can be understood which way a motorcycle is heading if someone is clearly listening — with intent on hearing. “There another goes, a little closer,” it’s perceived.

The routine tick of the hot plate suggests it’s still turned on — what does someone do that cannot hear? Those tiny noises help to orient and pace and warn.

The clock goes off at 4 pm, though it was accidentally set but has been left because it’s a good reminder that things need to be sped up if they are to ever get done within that same, now shortened day — and the chime is pleasant for a midday interruption.

Quiet and/or subliminal and incessant noises are like being slightly hot, or a little too cold and putting on another blanket or taking one off — another “Phew — what was I thinking to let myself get so hot or cold?” Or, “I’m sure glad that noise is over now I’ve noticed.”

Soft, continuous rain, on the other hand, can feel like just the right blanket whether it’s too hot or too cold and be a certain kind of comfort in the middle of an otherwise annoying, subliminally noisy kind of day.

Chanting, “The rain in Spain” can be a comfort too.

What’s the difference that makes something annoying or not? Maybe it’s a matter of whatever state someone is in when the incessant thing begins.

She said, “I was afraid when I was little, to try to go to sleep upstairs unless my mother was at her sewing machine that was upstairs too. If I heard the machine going, I knew that she was up there with me. I learned to associate the sound of a sewing machine going with feeling protected. So a sewing machine is a soothing sound to me now.”

It might be possible that a water heater noise could make another someone happy — but it seems that it would always be preferable to listen to the rain.


Credit: Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay