The Songs of Ghosts

Last night I sat upstairs in the studio and tried to read. But the refrigerator E.’s daughter used when she used the upstairs space as an apartment was humming. I’m not sure humming is the right word. At first I thought someone was playing music downstairs. Or outside. I would have sworn I could almost catch the lyrics. Ghost-like and insubstantial, but definitely present. I began to wonder about the dosage of my medication.

How rarely I sit in the quiet now. There’s always a podcast playing, or a video open in another tab on the computer. The last book of poetry I read, I read here in the bibliotekette* where I am used to the ambient sounds. The birds in the driveway, occasionally the neighbors footsteps on the gravel, Leonard’s claws on the wood flooring in the entrance hall, or his rumbling when he is sleeping at my feet, chasing dream-hares.

Even on runs lately, E. chatters. Which is a good thing. He makes dad jokes. Keeps it light. But I miss the quiet. We have done well this past year with home offices. At least for the most part. Our frustrations haven’t been with each other. He’s been longing to get back to the office. To play squash regularly again. He’s an extrovert, if such distinctions exist.

I experience social activities as work. Even when I enjoy them. Even when the connections and the moments are worth the work. So I am struggling now to understand how I can possibly be craving more quiet under the circumstances of this past year. Especially when I have had too much time to wrestle with ghosts.

But I believe that I’ve been distracting myself with project after project at a breakneck speed. Circumstances at work are such that I should be free most days. Nothing pressing on a to-do list. A standing above the tree line kind of feeling.

My best friend took me up a 14-pointer in Colorado a few years ago. After about an hour we were quiet. It was meditative. I paid attention to my breathing. To the calm thoughts that passed through my mind. To my physical body, checking for altitude sickness.

Above the tree line, above the snow. Stones and wind, and a little bit of vertigo. It was exhilarating. Coming down I told her I felt like I’d had a glass of wine. Or two. Her teenage son was with us and he was giggling: “Me, too.”

I really would like to climb a mountain now. A really high mountain.

But I think about the refrigerator and its ghost music, and I wonder if what I need is to sit upstairs in the studio and listen. To breath. To pay attention to my body, check for any sickness caused by a sudden shift in circumstances. To make out the lyrics. To write them down.

There’s more than one form of meditation.

the wind on the peak
crowds your ears and you are one
claimed by the air
and the stones beneath your feet
have never felt less certain

*bibliotekette is not a real word. Bibliotek is Norwegian for library, but this room is small. Hence: -ette.

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