Tuesday April 21, 2020
Five hours of sleep – then awake for no reason I could name. No city noise woke me.
I basked in the quiet as I have for so many mornings over the last month.
Quiet, like anything in short supply, can be savored. But, unlike savoring a fine old wine, I realized what I was savoring was an absence.
An absence of noise.
Having the single worst feature of anything removed is not an experience we encounter often. Depending on where you live, an annoying sound might be a chainsaw, a garbage truck, a passing train, a barking dog, a car alarm, or a noisy neighbor. Thankfully at some point, it stops; the wood is cut, the neighbor falls asleep, the dripping faucet is finally fixed.
What if the most annoying quality of your mate, or boss or parent, vanished? Not just diminished, but completely gone. That kind of change could easily render someone unrecognizable – a stranger. Over the decades we have gotten used to sounds or patterns of behavior, some have become so familiar that we only notice them when they flare, otherwise they exist in the background; we have all mastered tolerating what is in the background.
However welcome and delightful such a change might be, it would probably take some getting used to. Significant change is unsettling. We get used to our own ways and those of others.
Many pleasures, in excess, like at a buffet, can overwhelm and lose their potency. When the pleasure is an absence—an elimination of something negative, something unwanted—the savoring may have different qualities.
With the rain paused, I headed into the heart of Soho on a midday run to continue my non-matriculating coursework on the boarding up of clothing stores. Last week, I started to see an alternative and cheaper approach—simply papering shop windows from the inside. “If you cannot see in, why break in?” must be the concept.
The tide of eye contact is increasing. On Worth Street, two guys seemed to almost actively call out to me for an exchange, silent or not, any kind of contact with another person in this isolating time. No movement or sound was involved; it was an energy field of need or desire which seemed satisfied with eye contact in one case, and a nod in another.
The white plastic chain around the 9/11 Memorial was more taut than it was last week. I am sure the lone guard was somewhere, but with the resumption of light rain, no one was around; I ducked under the chain, hoping to get a better look at what was once so public.
No water was falling along the main granite walls of the north pool, though some was spilling into the central void from the black rectangular pool thirty feet below the plaza. I noticed a white rose tucked into the bronze band of names which surrounds the pool. It was impressively plump, alive, luscious—filled with life force—not the elegant slender bud that is more common. Gazing around, I saw at least a half dozen more and assumed each one had been placed by one person at the names of people she or he knew. Unlike this crisis, those deaths all occurred in a small fraction of a single day.